It’s Winter In SoCal

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The NWS chat channel has been up in another browser window most of the past two days. It’s a meeting place for media, emergency managers and NWS forecasters. All the chatter has been winter related.

Finally after a year and a half, SoCal winter has found the Foxes.

The main player is a storm from the north which managed to stay inland and stay cold. It doesn’t happen often.

Indio, at the far end of the Coachella Valley, only got to 53 today. Every other December 31 on record was warmer by at least two degrees and the record goes back to 1894!

We’re about as far south as Charleston, SC. Snow fell at an altitude of 1350 feet above sea level.

Hundreds of cars were stranded in dozens of spots. Parts of I-10 and I-15 were snowcovered. Driving in snow is much different here where slopes are steep and long. Chains are required.

My cousin, Melissa told Helaine this was the coldest she could remember. The wind was probably her deciding factor. We had gusts in the mid 30s overnight. Trash cans were flying. Some mountaintops and passes went over 60 mph.

The Sun was out this morning. I looked toward Santiago Peak, around dozen miles from here, and saw white!

“Be right back,” I told Helaine, then hopped in the car to take the two shots above.

By early next week we’ll be back in the mid 70s. It’s winter in SoCal.

Rain Is Different Here

In the burn areas, places that had fires in the last year or two, it will take much less for canyon walls to fall. The scrubby growth that held everything together was burned away.

People in scenic canyon homes are usually OK, not always. They always say they’ll rebuild.

When a storm approaches the Southern California coast, as is the case tonight, it’s a big deal!

Thank you weather.cod.edu

Rain leads the news in SoCal just like snow does in the Northeast.

Every area has some sort of natural Achilles heel. Ours is rain. Can’t live with it. Can’t live without it.

This is a semi-desert climate. We get our paltry rain in a very few large doses. The water is good for reducing fire danger and irrigation, but most of SoCal’s water comes from the Sierras, hundreds of miles away. Rain at my house isn’t quite as important as it seems.

The latest computer guidance says we can take around an inch of rain in an hour, up to three inches in six hours before we flood. Close call.

In the burn areas, places that had fires in the last year or two, it will take much less for canyon walls to fall. The scrubby growth that held everything together has burned away.

People in beautiful homes with spectacular views are usually OK, not always. Sometimes their houses fall. Other times something falls on their houses. They always say they’ll rebuild.

Irvine has a few large drainage channels carrying runoff to the sea. Always empty. That will change.

No snow for Santiago Peak–visible from the bedroom window. A quick estimate keeps the rain/snow line above 10,000 feet–higher than these mountains.

NERD ALERT — Feel free to skip the next paragraph.

In Connecticut I’d look for the 850mb 0C isotherm as a good rain/snow indicator. During this storm it will be close to 10C over me. These storms tend to be convective–so cellular. Rain amounts will vary greatly city-to-city.

Hopefully the storm’s mightest punch will be in the Sierras. If you start hearing of little mountain towns with a new feet of snow you’ll know we hit the jackpot!

Oh–people here can’t drive in rain. I’ll leave it there.

Not The Worst Storm–The Worst Time

Travel on Wednesday will be demanding. Air travel will present its own special hell.

Model Analyses and Guidance

I continue to look at the numbers for Wednesday’s storm in the Northeast. Not the worst, but certainly at the worst time. Wednesday. Day before Thanksgiving. You get it.

By this time all the TV mets should be saying the same thing. The guidance is straightforward and consistent.

The exact numbers don’t matter. There will be enough to plow inland. On the shoreline slushier.

Rain then snow in DC before dawn. By sunrise I-95 will be wet from Ft. Lauderdale to Fort Lee!

In Connecticut the action begins in the morning. Schools and businesses might have to make decisions before there’s anything falling.

The snow (and mixed precipitation on the shore) will continue until around midnight before tapering to snow showers and flurries.

Travel on Wednesday will be demanding. Air travel will present its own special hell.

Our spare bedroom is available.

I Still Look At The Weather

The more interesting weather is in the Northeast. I guess all the TV people are talking about the potential for a storm Wednesday? I would be.

The 00Z GFS starts precipitation early Wednesday and continues through the day, heavy at times.

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Learning to forecast was fun. I still find it enjoyable, looking at weather maps and charts. California weather is currently very stable. Days in the 70s, nights 50s. Passing clouds.

Nowadays I use weather.cod.edu for most of my raw and mapped data. It is a nerd-o-riffic weather site run by the College of DuPage in Illinois.

Our next chance for rain comes a week from today. Everyone, including me, will tell you we need it. Southern California must maintain a delicate balance. Even in a drought, nearly all rainstorms here are potentially flooding rainstorms! It doesn’t take much.

The more interesting weather is in the Northeast. I guess all the TV people are talking about the potential for a storm Wednesday? I would be.

The 00Z GFS starts precipitation early Wednesday and continues through the day, heavy at times. It’s the heaviest travel day of the year and this system will impact DCA, PHL, NYC, BOS and everyone inbetween.

Judging by the 850mb temperatures, I’d favor mostly snow in Connecticut–though mixed precip isn’t out of the question. Windy. Stormy. Crappy.

The spaghetti plots through early Thursday are reasonably tight, signifying the model is impressed with its results.

Hey, it’s Sunday. Maybe your decisions can wait. Please, wait as long as possible.

If your options are limited, it might be time to think of alternatives.

No weather forecast is infallible. The ones for SoCal are easier.

Do You Miss Buffalo?

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I was just on the phone with my dad. We talked about the weather a little. He’s in Milwaukee where it’s 29 with a wind chill of 22. My office window thermometer shows 72.

“Bet you’re glad you’re not in Buffalo,” he said.

I am.

766 Auburn Ave   Google Maps

I lived here, at 766 Auburn Avenue (Google streetview link) in the third floor apartment. It was a beautiful one bedroom with no insulation and enough water pressure to take a shower if no one in the other two apartments was! During the summer we were woken by squirrel races on the roof.

Those who live in Buffalo do so by choice. Anyone who wanted to leave left a long time ago. There is a survivor spirit among the residents.

It is a really nice, liveable city. Real estate is very reasonable. Summers are magical. Winters are hellish.

Starting in mid-November a thick veil of low clouds descends upon the city. This is the beginning of the process that spawns Lake Effect snow. It’s convection, like bubbles in a pot of boiling water. It will remain mainly cloudy with a handful of exceptions until spring.

This time of year the Great Lakes are warm and the flow through the atmosphere cold. Warm air near the lake’s surface is drawn up, condensing as it cools. Clouds form, often dropping snow.

Lake Effect season begins suddenly. The start is when the potential for big storms is greatest… as we saw this past week. Once Lake Erie freezes the process shuts down.

Lake Ontario doesn’t freeze. Sorry Syracuse.

For a real Lake Effect event, winds must be aligned through the atmosphere often parallel to a lake’s longest dimension.

These storms are VERY localized. The physics involved in Lake Effect snow is very similar to summertime thunderstorm formation. In fact, sometimes thundersnow is part of a Lake Effect storm.

Think “thunderstorm downpour” of snow… except instead of moving on, the storm continues for hours or days relentlessly.

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This graph is from East Aurora, NY. Under land use it’s marked, “Urban.” People live there. That’s over 30″ of snowpack with a water equivalent of 5″.

The edges of Lake Effect storms are well pronounced. You drive out of Lake Effect snow like you drive out of a summer thunderstorm. And these boundaries stay in place as long as the wind doesn’t shift.

No one can cope with this much snow. No one is equipped, even those areas that get as much as 200″ of snow a year!

“Yes, Dad. I’m glad I’m not in Buffalo.” But I don’t regret a day of living there.

Buffalo And The World’s Weirdest Weather

The photo at the top of this entry is Buffalo, Wednesday afternoon. The Sun is shining brightly.

Wondering where the snow is?

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The photo at the top of this entry is Buffalo, Wednesday Tuesday afternoon. It’s my old neighborhood on Elmwood Avenue. The Sun is shining brightly.

Wondering where the snow is?

robhimself793: I’m about a mile from the snow band, I have very little snow, maybe 6″. Just a mile south and people have 3 feet.

You’re seeing one of the more interesting aspects of Lake Effect snow. It is VERY localized. There’s heavy snow just a few miles from where this image was captured.

Lake Effect snow is the product of convection. Heat and moisture are transferred upward into the clouds from the relatively warm lake. You can see that in this time lapse of Lake Erie, one of the coolest pieces of weather video I’ve ever seen.

Heavy Lake Effect snow needs cold wind roughly parallel to the lake to get going. The resulting storm forms slender ‘streamers’ which reach out from the lake. They are often just a few miles wide, with flurries at the edges and white out conditions in the middle!

Near the Great Lakes it’s possible to drive from no snow to 4″/hour conditions in just two or three miles! These bands can stay stationary for hours, or even days!

Buffalo gets a lot of snow each winter, over 90 inches! Because of Lake Effect there are heavier snowbelts south of the city. People in Buffalo scratch their heads why anyone would want to live there, as we scratch our heads over Buffalo.

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