Seriously, It’s A Big Deal

Forget for a moment our shortage of potable water. Native Southern Californians pine for cloudy, rainy days. I see it in neighbors and co-workers. They’re excited about Friday’s potential.

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You wouldn’t believe how much time I’ve spent looking at the forecast for Friday. There’s a chance for rain in Palm Springs, a rarity in May.

Tiny. Miniscule. Little. Your choice. Not much is going to fall. Think interval wipers.

It’s a big deal to my viewers, so it’s a big deal to me.

Forget for a moment our shortage of potable water. Native Southern Californians pine for cloudy, rainy days. I see it in neighbors and co-workers. They’re excited about Friday’s potential.

I moved to California for the opposite reason, but I’m willing to play along. I understand.

I face a new problem in Palm Springs that didn’t exist for me in Connecticut. Our valley is small and the mid-range weather models have a tough time seeing it. Their grids are too coarse.

Usually Connecticut’s weather is homogenous. Everyone gets similar weather. Not so for the Coachella Valley versus its neighbors.

Approaching storms are obvoius. It’s easy to say LA and the OC will get a few sprinkles Thursday and more rain Friday. That doesn’t mean any of it will reach Palm Springs. We’re nestled between mountains.

Even nearby spots live Riverside and Moreno Valley will likely see rain. They’re on the other side of some tall mountains, the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa ranges.

Yesterday, I got to use the high res CANSAC WRF run. Its 2 kilometer horizontal resolution makes a huge difference. It only goes out 72 hours, so it’s only now becoming useful. Today, the 15 hour HRRR will add more insight.

There’s more to forecasting in the desert than I expected. More wind to consider. More storms that get close, but miss. It’s very intricate. More microscale than mesoscale.

It’s a lot of fun.

How Random Is Life?

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A little asteroid just whizzed by Earth. Not terribly large. Estimates say 20-60 feet long. 2015 HD-1 is one of billions of rocks randomly orbiting the Sun. Tonight it came really close to us.

With asteroids, astronomers calculate the object’s closest distance from Earth and compare that with our distance from the Moon. 2015 HD-1 was only .17 LD (Lunar distances) from our planet. Roughly 40,000 miles.

Astronomers have only known about this interplanetary speck a few days. An automated sky search run by the University of Arizona found it first. It was magnitude 20.1. Very dim.

Sixty feet long isn’t enough to do the Earth in. A sixty footer would probably break up in the atmosphere. Much of it would burn, but plenty of large rocky fragments would fall to earth. And there’d be a destructive sonic boom.

When an asteroid exploded over Siberia a few years it was flying glass from the sonic boom that injured nearly 1,500.

We didn’t know it existed until Saturday. How random is life?

Do We Really Want To Be China?

Here in SoCal pollution was so bad it was a national joke. Nearby mountains disappeared in a brownish haze. No more.

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A favorite target of the political right is the EPA. Just yesterday in a hearing with the EPA administrator, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said:

Sessions: When we go to our states, the group we have the most complaints about from our constituents — whether it’s highway people, whether it’s farmers, whether it’s energy people — is the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s an [agency of] extraordinary overreach. And you apparently are unaware of the pushback that’s occurring in the real world.

Of course many businesses dislike the EPA. It’s an agency made to primarily say, “No!” In this case, no is a good thing.

Wikipedia summarizes some of the changes to what we breath from 1970 to 2006:

  • carbon monoxide emissions fell from 197 million tons to 89 million tons
  • nitrogen oxide emissions fell from 27 million tons to 19 million tons
  • sulfur dioxide emissions fell from 31 million tons to 15 million tons
  • particulate emissions fell by 80%
  • lead emissions fell by more than 98%

As a kid growing up in Queens I watched soot from dozens of chimneys as the apartment buildings in my neighborhood burned their trash every afternoon. Today we’d be shocked. Then, it was standard operating procedures.

Here in SoCal pollution was so bad it was a national joke. The photo at the top of this entry is Downtown Los Angeles in the 70s. Nearby mountains disappeared in a brownish haze.

No more.

Our air still needs help, but the trend is in the right direction. Today, much of SoCal’s 21st Century pollution actually floats over the Pacific from China and the rest of industrialized Asia.

It costs more money to keep emissions down. In business that cost comes directly from profits. No wonder business hates the EPA.

But, do we really want to be China?

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Who Said I’d Be Bored?

Some computer models show around an inch of rain in Palm Springs by Monday morning. That’s a lot in a place that floods easily. I spent time tonight explaining ‘washes’ to the tourists and snowbirds watching.

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I’m forecasting the weather for the Coachella Valley at KMIR. The physics of weather are the same, but there are different tools to use.

Satellite imagery is a lot more important here. Anything coming from the Pacific is out of radar range nearly all the way to the coast.

I’ve been looking at a plume of moisture from north of Hawaii curving up the Pacific then back down the West Coast. It’s the big weekend weather maker for SoCal. The only way to see it is from the bird.

Saturday, while it’s raining in LA and San Diego, there will be partly cloudy skies over Palm Springs with a few sprinkles. We are protected by steep mountains, some over 11,000 feet tall.

On Sunday the moisture heads in from the south. No protection there! That’s when we get the bulk of our rain.

Some computer models show around an inch of rain in Palm Springs by Monday morning. That’s a lot in a place that floods easily. I spent time tonight explaining ‘washes’ to the tourists and snowbirds watching.

On top of the rain we’ve got wind for Saturday and as much as a foot and a half of snow in some mountain locations.

Who said I’d be bored forecasting here?

I Love You NASA, But…

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I was just reading a release on the progress of NASA’s New Horizons mission. It was sent toward Pluto back when Pluto was still a planet. It gets there this summer.

New Horizons is still over 100 million miles out, but closing fast. Low-res images of two of Pluto’s four moons are coming in. It’s an amazing achievement.

But why?

Actually, I know why. Space technology creates many well paying jobs. It’s a political landmine to cut.

Unfortunately, there is almost no practical payoff to space. All the good discoveries happened decades ago. I’ve been hearing about pharmaceuticals and metallurgy in space for the last forty years! Don’t hold your breath.

i19_025588I don’t know what they do on the International Space Station on a daily basis, but it’s the modern version of a ham radio operator’s basement from the sixties. And, it’s expensive.

What we need is to better explore Earth. We need to understand and leverage the natural power around us. There is untapped energy in tides and ocean currents. There is great heat at the center of the Earth.

The same types of skills NASA employs for space are needed for Earth! Only the mission need be changed.

Could harnessing heat from the Earth’s core be any more difficult that sending a mission to Pluto?

This is a pipe dream. I don’t see it happening. I wish it would.

There are so many bright and wonderfully talented people at NASA. Their accomplishments are way beyond mind boggling. They’re just solving the wrong problems.

Rain For SoCal, Again

Once again we’re right on the 3-hour flash flood line. I expect some flooding. Homes in burn areas will be threatened by mudslides. A few inches of rain probable through this region.

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Helaine saw the hashtag #stormageddon touted on TV a few minutes ago. SoCal is bracing… again. Is there some weird secret competition with the East on weather?

“Yeah… well… rain!”

Actually this storm looks very un-SoCalish. The radar from Vandenberg AFB shows a squall line out front. The HRRR agrees. The squalls remain intact as the line slides down the coast. Embedded thunderstorms are entirely possible.

We’ll have rain most of the day Friday though the bulk falls between 4-7 AM. We’re right on the 3-hour flash flood line, again. I expect some flooding. Homes in burn areas will be threatened by mudslides. A few inches of rain probable through this region.

wind15min_t410m_f0945The heaviest wind comes with the heaviest of the rain. Winds will gust out of the south. The wind map to the left highlights the higher ground where winds will be strongest.

If there’s snow for our two nearby tall peaks it will happen late in the storm. My second winter and no white so far.

Father north, San Francisco proper has gotten 2-4″ of rain with some windward mountainsides getting over 7″.

So far, this is the awful winter everyone was praying for!