Monday, January 6, 2014

A cloud for California's silver lining weather

Talking about the weather used to be small-talk, right? Nowadays there's something more sinister in the topic, at least from this observer's frame of reference. The sun is shining in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it creeps me out.

I wrote on the 25th of last month that:
If you were strolling around Berkeley, California between eleven and noonish on Christmas Day 2013 it wouldn't have been a stretch to imagine yourself in the southern hemisphere. The sky was blue, the sun shone, the Campanille sounded across the city, the thermometer read in the high sixties. South of the nearly-deserted campus, magnolias were beginning to bloom.
Since then, a bitter cold and billions and billions on snowflakes have descended on the midwest and east coast. If you live in these regions, you don't need me to tell you this. If you live where I do, there's nothing in the air to suggest how nasty a turn this winter has taken on the other side of the Rockies. Here's what the National Weather Service had to say as of yesterday evening:
The coldest weather in years will be making its presence known from the Upper Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic region for the beginning of the work week. The polar vortex, a mid-upper level cyclonic feature normally present over northern Canada, will be displaced unusually far to the south over the northern Great Lakes and southern Ontario. Owing to the deep layer of the cold air mass, this will provide for an incredibly strong surge of bitterly cold Arctic Air along with gusty winds. The Upper Midwest will be affected first by Saturday night, and the brutal conditions will continue pushing southeastward to the Ohio Valley and Mid-South by Monday, and to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic by Tuesday. Particularly noteworthy will be the extreme wind chills and nearly unheard-of daytime highs that are forecast. A huge expanse of wind chill warnings are in effect from Montana all the way to the central Appalachians, with wind chills on the order of -20 to -50 degrees expected! Afternoon highs on Monday for parts of the Midwest states and the Ohio Valley will fail to reach zero degrees!
Here in Northern California? Mild. Clear. Dry. A cousin in Orange County reported seventy-seven degrees where she lives on Sunday. The photo at left is sunset on Saturday evening at Half Moon Bay (higher res on Tumblr, at One Finger Clicking). I drove along a stretch of about ninety miles of Highway 1 on Friday, and back again on Saturday. Both days there were surfers in the water from Pacifica to Santa Cruz.

I'm not gloating, mind you. Like I said: there's something sinister about the weather this winter, whether it's bitterly cold and snowy on the east side of the continent or summery and dry on the lower stretch of the Pacific side of the country.

A diarist who goes by FishOutOfWater posted an analysis on Daily Kos on Friday, titled Extraordinary Jet Stream Track to Alaska Led to Record Dryness in California in 2013 [thanks to LK for the link]. The meteorological graphics taken from the NOAA go a bit over my head, but this table (also from the NOAA, image copied from FishOutOfWater's post) is pretty clear when it comes to the debt California is incurring for our shirtsleeves-in-winter weather:

And it ain't just California that will suffer for that deficit. The Golden State, with a population of nearly 12% of the entire U.S., produces nearly half of U.S.-grown fruits, nuts, and vegetables.

As the Daily Kos diarist put it:
California water supplies were in good shape entering 2013 but they are rapidly deteriorating now. Snowpack levels are just 20% of normal on January 3, 2014 according to automated measurements.

There's no end to the west coast drought in sight. The Climate Prediction Center outlook for California is for worsening drought for the next 90 days. The January outlook is very disappointing because January is frequently California's wettest month.
And as long as I'm quoting, here's another DKer whose handle is ontheleftcoast, summing it all up in a comment to the above-linked post:
We really don't have models for how this is going to play out. There's just no way we can predict what's going to happen at this point. Climate Chaos is here and we're going to have to deal with it. Draught one year, massive floods the next, who knows what in the following year. And the severity will be like nothing we've seen. Every couple of years will see "1000 year floods" or "once in a life time events". W[e] didn't just break the sky, we annihilated it.

That's what I'm afraid of.

Related posts on One Finger Typing:
A quiet Christmas in Berkeley
Living with drought
Weather? Climate? Change?
Pacific coast watersheds

1 comment:

  1. Me too. I'm really finding this weather terrifying. I remember bricks in the toilet in the 70s but this has a whole other feel to it.