Posts Tagged ‘Weather’


Who Said I’d Be Bored?

Friday, February 27th, 2015


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?

Rain Shade Is Major

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015  flashloop.php model wrf product 2015022200 3hrPRECIP_ domain _D3

My job is forecasting the weather at KMIR. Our market, Palm Springs, covers a small geographic area. It’s not even a whole county!

People think it’s boring to forecast in the desert. Nah. Sometimes it’s repetitive. I can deal with that. There’s always something interesting going on.

Locales have individual climatic quirks like baseball parks have ground rules. The Coachella Valley, where the vast majority of our viewers live, is a protected valley. We are flanked by mountains. We get “rain shade.” Real term. I didn’t make it up.

The San Bernardino Mountains are north, San Jacinto and Santa Ana Mountains west and the Little San Bernardino Mountains are off to the east. We’re wedged in tight.

A small storm hitting SoCal this weekend will drop nearly all its rain before it gets to Palm Springs! The largest rainfall will be on the eastern slopes of the Santa Ana’s. The east face of the San Jacinto range should drain most of what’s left. The tallest mountaintops will get snow.

The notoriously awful QPF (Quantitative Precipitation Forecast) from the GFS model say .06″ Sunday and another .04″ Monday at Palm Springs Airport (PSP). John Wayne Airport (SNA), west of Palm Springs and on the coastal side of the mountains, is forecast for .33″, over three times as much.

There’s are reasons Palm Springs gets less than six inches of rain in an average year. Rain shade is major.

It’s Winter In SoCal

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014



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 For SoCal, Again

Thursday, December 11th, 2014


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!

Look Who Wanted Out Of The Rain

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014


We’ve have two days of rain in SoCal. Very unusual. Yosemite Falls is falling, reasonably rare for December. Up north in San Francisco the rain has set records!

Through 7 a.m. Wednesday, San Francisco had received 1.36 inches of rainfall since midnight. Combined with 1.61 inches received yesterday we have a 2-day total of 2.97 inches. With more rain on the way, Wednesday will be the rainiest 2 days in San Francisco since at least January 2008. – Roberta Gonzalez KPIX

Here at the Casa de zorro (translate it–go ahead) we have new visitors driven up by the water seeping down. Worms!

This was a common occurrence in Connecticut, not so much here. And these worms are different. They’re very slender. Hollywood worms!

I’m not sure what kind of sensors worms have, but as I knelt down with “Clicky” the closest worm raised its head (or whatever the front end of a worm is called).

When the sun returns, the worms will disappear. Until then they’re a little creepy.

Rain Is Different Here

Monday, December 1st, 2014

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

Thank you

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

Monday, November 24th, 2014

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.

My Two Cents On Wednesday

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014


A snowstorm is heading toward the East Coast at the worst possible time, the busiest travel day of the year! Get set for your favorite TV liveshot: reporter interviewing angered passengers at the airport.

This storm has a large footprint. There will be some snow from the Delmarva to Maine. South and east will have rain or a mix.

Back in Connecticut there will be plowable inches inland with a slushy, yucky mix on the shore. It begins around breakfast and stays until dawn Thursday with the heaviest over by late Wednesday night.

Roads will suck. Airline schedules will be meaningless. Am I overselling it?

I don’t expect to see people stranded, but travelling Wednesday will be tedious and unpleasant at best. If you can change your plans, go for it.

I Still Look At The Weather

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014


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 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?

Friday, November 21st, 2014


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.


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.