It is all about the wind…

Looking out my window, I see pennants fluttering in the wind, trees and bushes dancing and waving in the breeze. This is May. In California.

Back in the ’60s and early ’70s it was like this. Then something changed. The Great Pacific Climate Shift.

The 76/77 climate shift

Between 1976 and 1977, the Tropical Pacific (the performing stage of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation phenomenon) underwent a rapid warming that had global impacts, including over North America, which was wetter than usual for the following two decades. It is shown below in the Southern Oscillation index data (difference in surface pressure between Tahiti and Darwin, Australia), but could also be shown in the warming of about 0.3°C in the sea-surface temperatures of the eastern tropical Pacific region.

In 1971 I met my first college roomie. He had been given a Ford Capri for high school graduation. It had no A/C. Why? “Because we never need A/C in the Bay Area.” he said. Then just a few years later he was adding A/C to the car. That left an impression.

I’ve lived about 10 miles from where he grew up since I got a job in the S.F. Bay Area and moved here in about 1977. Just in the middle of that shift. It has been warmer ever since. I’d visited here for a good half decade as his friend prior to moving here. I know the area.

Well now we’ve changed back to what it had been. A/C not required. Winds stronger and more “puffy”. In the late ’60s / early ’70s I was taking Ground School for pilots. While I never got my license (University got in the way) I came close. We spent a lot of time on “microbursts” and “downdrafts” as those were shoving aircraft out of the sky. (2000 feet / minute down drafts with a 500 ft/min max climb aircraft means you have ‘controlled decent into terrain” – i.e. crash.) Then in the ’80s and ’90s we had nearly no accidents as the jet stream went zonal and downbursts weakened. Now it’s all back.

I’m pretty sure that some 1/2 dozen years hence someone will call this the Great 2015 / 2016 Climate Shift. Or maybe a year earlier, who knows. What is clear is that the winds have changed. With the winds, the ocean currents and temperature bands have shifted. It’s much cooler and blustier now. It is like what it had been in the “New Ice Age!” scare era of the ’60s and early ’70s. That time when you didn’t need an air conditioner here.

So far this year I have run the A/C exactly zero times.

Yesterday I wanted to run the heater, but was too cheap to heat the house in the morning knowing the afternoon would be nice. This evening I want to start the heater… This is not 1980 on the temperature front…

On the radio an hour ago I heard the weather report. Chance of rain in the coming week. That is extraordinarily unusual in this last 1/2 cycle of the PDO. Something has changed, and change is on the wind…

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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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10 Responses to It is all about the wind…

  1. p.g.sharrow says:

    “Home Depot reported slower-than-expected sales growth for the first quarter, as spring weather that was colder than usual hurt sales of fertilizer, live plants and other gardening-related items”
    Looks like somebody else has noticed the spring weather change. .pg.

  2. Larry Ledwick says:

    I would love to find a historical soil temp reference for this date. It might be buried somewhere among the references listed in this item:

    The agricultural folks obviously are worried about recent cold spring temps.

  3. philjourdan says:

    Seems I lived in the bay area during the last “no AC” period (early 70s). I just figured the SF weather was ALWAYS foggy and damp and cool (60s/70s). That is how I remember my stay. Now you are telling me that it actually becomes livable at times? :-)

  4. beng135 says:

    Just ran the A/C here in west MD for first time this season, mostly to de-humidify.

  5. Another Ian says:

    “Just ran the A/C here in west MD for first time this season, mostly to de-humidify.”

    O/T but check the atmospherics in the B1 photos in Clay Neubauer’s post here

  6. Power Grab says:

    Here are some lyrics from “The Lady Is a Tramp” .:
    “Loathes California. It’s cold and it’s damp”

    The song was written in 1937.
    I always thought those lyrics were odd because California was billed as a sunny, dry climate, and great for making movies.

    It is roughly 2 full solar cycles between 1937 and 1977. Hmmm…

  7. Another Ian says:


    Looks like you’re developing a Pacific hot spot

  8. E.M.Smith says:


    California is a bunch of entirely different climates and geography. That’s what makes it great for filming movies. You have Alpine Mountains with snow so you can drive up to “Alaska / Canada” like places and then be back on the beach for shooting a surfing movie the next day. Inland from Los Angeles you get desert and cactus (Westerns…) and not too much further you have the Arizona Desert with the iconic rock formations / saguaro cactus. About 100 miles north of L.A. you are in the Central Valley and can shoot things that look like The Great Plains – from Ohio to Denver… and then there’s the river / delta system of the Sacramento where you can film “Mississippi River” like scenes (we actually had a paddle wheel boat here until recently. I saw the wreck of it…)

    At about 100 miles north of L.A. also the ocean currents change. From that point south, it is warm water and great beaches (filming for “Hawaiian” surfer movies… and Pacific beach battles possible). That’s where you get film of folks on the beach by the millions and surfers in the sun. North of that point it is a very cold current of the coast. We’re talking 45 F when it’s warm… So L.A. is pretty much always warm and you can grow bananas in San Diego; but up the coast in San Francisco, it is cold and dank in summer under a cold fog much of the time. Thus Mark Twain and his “coldest winter” being a summer in San Francisco…

    So, want warm tropical beach? San Diego.
    Want snowy Rockies in Canada Winter? Tahoe in January.
    Want desert of Arabia? Head inland to the Mojave.
    Want Kansas planes? North a bit to the Great Valley.
    Want foggy dank overcast for UK? North coastal near San Francisco…

    In terms of geology and botany it really is a wonderful State with an amazing array of topologies and weather. Just the government is sucky…

    One Tip:

    California has Eucalyptus trees, especially down around Los Angeles. These are often huge and have a particular appearance to them with distinctive long thin leaves (many, not all, have a peeling bark). Start watching for them in movies and you can spot “the California in Nebraska” ;-) Many old westerns were shot on farms outside L.A. and they had Eucalyptus planted. I now get a chuckle out of seeing a western set in, oh, Oklahoma or Kansas and there’s this 100 year old Eucalyptus shading the ranch… It seems to be one f the few things the film makers didn’t think about – the import of Eucalyptus vs time and space.

    I’ve also started looking for other iconic vegetation patterns in shows and can pretty much “peg” what part of California they were filmed in. Many TV shows with exterior “wilderness” shots are just up the coast from L.A. while “farm” shows and westerns are often in the Central Valley or the hills inland. Star Trek has a lot of exterior “Planet” shots in a particular park near L.A. Big dramatic rocks (Gorn fight is one of them, but the same rocks in the show with the planet that makes what you think about where Sulu and Kirk have fights with their nemesis in the rocks; and in others). Once you know those rocks it’s fun to look for them in Trek… the brush changes a little with the seasons, but the rocks are the same – though sometimes shot from different angles.

    Those few location shoots have been a source of intrigue among “Star Trek” aficionados. Some shoots, such as the one shown above for the “Arena” episode at Vasquez Rocks, have become legendary. The episode featured an infamous fight sequence between Kirk and the rubber-suited Gorn across the distinctively tilted rocks. Vasquez was the remote location of choice for “The Original Series,” with four episodes shot there.

    An ideal setting for Westerns, the 500-acre Iverson Movie Ranch also found its calling in science-fiction movies, war epics and tales of distant lands such as Africa and Arabia. It is the site where Republic Pictures made virtually all of its serials and B-Westerns, and where countless outdoor action sequences were filmed by crews from Columbia, Universal, Paramount, Fox, RKO, Monogram and just about every major production company of Hollywood’s Golden Age. An estimated 2,000 films, dating back to the silent era, along with thousands of television episodes were shot at Iverson.

    While B-movies and early TV shows provided much of Iverson’s business, the sprawling ranch also took a bow in major features such as John Ford’s epic Western “Stagecoach” (1939) and his classic Depression saga “The Grapes of Wrath” (1940). Gary Cooper was a frequent visitor to Iverson and built a Western village on the site for his only feature as a producer, the 1945 RKO Western “Along Came Jones,” co-starring Loretta Young. Cooper’s “The Lives of a Bengal Lancer” (1935) was among the major war movies shot at Iverson, along with John Wayne’s “The Fighting Seabees” (1944) and Errol Flynn’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (1936).

    All the cowboy movie heroes worked at Iverson — Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Audie Murphy, Randolph Scott, Tom Mix, William S. Hart and the rest. So did major movie stars from Barbara Stanwyck to James Cagney to Judy Garland to Henry Fonda to Shirley Temple. Bob Hope, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy and the Three Stooges were among the comedy stars to film at Iverson. Pioneering stuntman Yakima Canutt perfected his trademark stagecoach stunts on the Upper Iverson’s well-traveled chase roads, while superheroes from Superman to Batman donned their capes at the ranch. Early TV Westerns such as “The Lone Ranger” and “The Cisco Kid” shot regularly at Iverson, paving the way for the next generation of bigger, better TV productions to bring their cameras to the ranch for classic series such as “Bonanza,” “Gunsmoke,” “The Virginian” and “The Big Valley.”

    So warm and clear sky there. San Francisco not so much…

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    @Another Ian:

    Well “hot” is a relative thing… That “hot” is all of 1 C warmer anomaly. We’re talking like 45 F vs 43 F. It’s still darned cold water. Then when inland gets warm (like Sacramento to Reno Nevada) that air rises and sucks in a cold fog layer off the ocean pulling a dank blanket over San Francisco. I get the edges of it…


    The Denver link wants me to pay $1 or turn off my ad blocker so I have no idea what they said… (I don’t turn off my ad blocking for extortion).

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