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.


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.

It Sounds Like New England

You would be hard pressed to show visible perspiration today. Santa Ana sneezes are often accompanied by a little blood on the tissue.

This is very dangerous fire weather.


I woke this morning to a howling wind. The sound is unmistakable. We’re in SoCal, but my ears said winter in New England!

I’m hearing Santa Ana winds. These are dry, often hot winds coming from the east. The official meteorological term is katabatic.

A katabatic wind, from the Greek word katabatikos meaning “to flow downhill”, is the technical name for a drainage wind, a wind that carries high density air from a higher elevation down a slope under the force of gravity. Such winds are sometimes also called fall winds.

As the wind flows downhill it compresses, warms and dries. It picks up speed flowing through canyons and passes. The sound is the same, but the effect is nearly the opposite of the New England howl I’m attuned to.


At the moment the temperature is 73° and the dewpoint -8°! The relative humidity is 4%.

The wind sucks the moisture from anything it passes. You would be hard pressed to show visible perspiration today. Santa Ana sneezes are often accompanied by a little blood on the tissue.

This is very dangerous fire weather. We had drizzle a few days ago. Any beneficial effect of that rain is gone. If it’s not green it’s tinder.

Red Flag Warnings are up across Southern California. There will be fires. They will spread.

When a weather feature has its own name, it’s significant! Think Nor’easter.

A few more days of Santa Ana wind will follow.

Stuff You See While Flying

We’re back in the OC tonight. Why is flying so exhausting? We are all bushed.

The drive back from LAX was amazing! No traffic. How very un-SoCal.



On the way to Milwaukee our little 737-300 taxied by an Emirates Airbus 380-800. What a behemoth. My seat was lower than its wing! The A380-800 is bigger than nearly all 747s.

It’s got 399 seats in Economy, plus 75 in Business. There are also 14 “closed suites” in First Class for the 16 hour flight to the Persian Gulf.


Winner of the “Best Paint Job” award goes to Air New Zealand for this black, silver and gray 777.



Nearly every flight from LAX exits over the ocean. On the way out we flew over the Port of Los Angeles. It might as well be considered a wormhole in the space-time continuum connecting China and America.

Look closely at the cranes. Ships used to unload in port. Now everything stays in its container and moves on.


We also flew by Rancho Palos Verde. When I took this shot I didn’t realize the Trump National Golf Course Los Angeles is cut off on the right. If I would have known I would have aimed farther left.

Another Beautiful SoCal Sunset (With Time Lapse)

As I was passing by, Helaine asked if I’d seen the evening colors? “It would probably make a good time lapse,” she said.

Too late. The camera was already suctioned on the guest bedroom window, pointing at the setting Sun.

If I could only rip down the houses west of us for a better view.





The Sky Was Pink

Tonight’s sunset was dominated by pink. Even clouds in the east benefited from the glow.

I sit right alongside one of the four windows in my office. I look to the right to get tipped off on the sunset. Some are spectacular.

Tonight’s was dominated by pink. Even clouds in the east benefited from the glow.

Here’s a sample of what I saw.





Beautiful Sunset Even Without Seeing The Sun

From my office window I can see south and west. What I can’t see is where the Sun sets! It’s behind another home.

It didn’t make any difference tonight. As the Sun went down the few clouds above lit up. Usually it only happens in the western sky. Not tonight. Tonight every cloud was brilliantly illuminated.

I wish I was at the beach to see it all unobstructed!





The View Down My Street


We live at the dead end of a short suburban street. You’re looking north. Those small hills are the Loma Ridge. It’s one in a series of foothills to the Santa Ana Mountains.

California is filled with land like this. It can’t/won’t be developed, ever. There are actually two large highways in this shot, but their footprints are purposely small. Californians seem respectful of the land.

The Santa Ana’s Have Arrived

Other areas get winds like this, the Chinook east of the Rockies for instance, but SoCal has the largest concentration of affected residents.

The dew point stayed in the teens all day with the relative humidity hovering near 5%. Someone posted a photo on Facebook reminding everyone nosebleed season is here!


Hot day. Hot night. We officially hit 97&#176 at John Wayne. The Santa Ana’s were blowing. They are dry winds–katabatic winds. Katabatic winds warm as they sink from higher elevations.

Other areas get winds like this, the Chinook east of the Rockies for instance, but SoCal has the largest concentration of affected residents.

The dew point stayed in the teens all day with the relative humidity hovering near 5%. Someone posted a photo on Facebook reminding everyone nosebleed season is here!

We didn’t run the a/c. I was very tempted. Maybe tomorrow.

This room, my office, catches afternoon sun. It holds heat longest. The overhead fan is silently spinning. Fans make a big difference, especially here where evaporation needs little prodding.

As moisture on your skin evaporates you feel cooler. In humid climates where evaporation takes place more slowly the same temperature leaves you feeling warmer!

Today’s heat index was actually 5-6&#176 cooler than the air temperature. On the East Coast that’s unheard of.

Santa Ana’s also raise the fire danger.

There are a few more days of this weather coming. Trust me, I’m not complaining.

How Does My Garden Grow

IMG_9601I’m a tomato growing guy! Over the years I’ve raised them at home and work.

Does raising tomatoes at work where I was paid make me a farmer? Sure. Why not?

Now that we’re in the land of perpetual sunshine I’ve got a single tomato plant in a pot on our patio. Growing space is limited. One is enough.

IMG_9600I cheated. The pot, with a plastic tomato cage above, came from Home Depot already in bloom. So far, it has survived my questionable care.

Our patio has limited sunshine. That’s good for people, but not optimum for tomatoes. They can’t get enough sunlight.

So far the impact has been minimal. Maybe it’s that sunshine is stronger in SoCal than Connecticut. Because of our more southerly latitude the Sun is higher in the sky.

I certainly started earlier. Back in the Northeast I never planted until Memorial Day. These bad boys are close to a month in.

IMG_9608I had been watering the tomatoes by hand. Today I installed irrigation.

We have a tiny sprinkler system for our flowers and bushes. I tapped into that, adding ‘dribblers’ for the tomatoes and a few other plants in pots.

The dribblers are rated one gallon per hour. The system runs two minutes every other day. That’s 4.27 ounces of water three or four times a week.

Is it enough? I’ll let you know.

In Connecticut tomato season ran from late July into October. It will be longer here. And no killing frost!

It’s All About Perspective

irvine-skyAs I type, it’s 53&#176 at Bradley Airport back in Connecticut. It’s 60&#176 at John Wayne Airport here in the OC. That’s about as close as Connecticut’s come since last fall!

People in Connecticut are probably outside commenting on how it’s warming up. I just complained to Helaine how chilly it is!

It’s all a matter of perspective.

People say your blood thins. No, that’s not what happens. Spend a winter here, you’re spoiled.

I actually feel cheated we are cloudy and chilly today. That didn’t take long.

Sometimes I Get Obsessed


A few days ago I started fooling around (again) with Magic Lantern. ML is firmware for my camera which makes it do all sorts of things it wasn’t designed to do! Magic Lantern enabled me to get hummingbird close-ups. Now I’m using it for timelapse photography.

This is the norm for me. Once I get a new tool I use it obsessively until I’ve mastered it.

I set my camera up at the end of our street. Cloud timelapses almost beg for a wide angle photography. I used a 10mm lens tilted up to catch lots of sky. Magic Lantern took one frame every second, producing a video 30 times normal speed.

The hills in the background are part of the Loma Ridge, foothills of the Santa Ana range.

Here’s the result of my effort. Click the box to watch it full screen.

Surf’s Up In Laguna Beach


Good surf conditions seemed likely today, so I threw on a pair of shorts and sweatshirt, packed my camera and lenses and headed to Laguna Beach. Laguna was a call of convenience. I was looking for a surf spot as close to home as possible. Google suggested Thalia Street Beach.

Thalia Street is a locals spot. The surfing is OK. No one goes out of their way to come here. The waves crest beautifully, but break quickly. Short rides.

Thalia Street itself is a dead end stub west of CA-1. Stairs built into the palisades take you about fifteen feet down to the beach. A parking spot opened up and I pulled in.

For a photographer, Thalia Street Beach is great. The surfers aren’t very far out. My 300mm lens was marginally too long! The beach is smooth sand.

Overcast skies. Temperatures in the upper 60s. With my sweatshirt on and shoes off, I waded in. The water was cool, but not enough to be a problem.

Just going calf deep in water got me fifteen feet closer to the action. Then one big waved ran up my thighs. I pulled the keys and cellphone from my pocket before they were injured and became a little less aggressive.

There were 15 to 20 surfers and an equal number of spectators on the beach this afternoon. The vibe is very casual. People don’t stumble onto this beach. It’s well hidden.

Now it’s my spot too.

All the photos are clickable for a larger view.

Canyon Climbing


Last Sunday’s hike was a wake-up call. It was strenuous, but I wilted much too quickly all things considered. Disappointing.

Helaine and I have been on two long walks since. Today I went with Cousin Melissa to hike Bommer Canyon.

Taxing! I held up a little better, but still needed to stop a bunch of times.

Bommer Canyon was used for cattle ranching for over a century. It was acquired by the City of Irvine in 1981. The whole Bommer Canyon Park is 16,000 acres.

I made a Central Park comparison a few days ago. Here’s another. Bommer Canyon is twenty times the size of Central Park, or a little larger than ALL of Manhattan! Bommer is just one of many publicly owned large wilderness areas in the region.

Because the canyon area is so precious and fragile it’s mostly off limits to pepole. The third Saturday of each month the park and its trails are open. Even then it’s just for a few hours.

bommer-canyon-hikeMelissa and I set out from the Bommer Canyon Cattle Camp site and took the Ridge Route climbing around 600 feet in 1.7 miles. The path is well maintained and easy to follow. There is little shade. Even on this January day the sun was strong.

We passed families, other individual hikers and a lot of mountain bikers. Everyone was friendly and shared the trail. No dogs allowed, which is common in wilderness areas.

On the way down we took the East Fork. This 1.3 mile trail drops very steeply in the first 3/4 mile then levels out. I’m not sure I would have been able to reverse the route, climbing East Fork first. We took a lucky guess and won.

Because of my exhaustion the last time, I left “Clicky” home. The camera was cumbersome and added to my difficulties. All these shots were taken with my cellphone’s camera.

There’s a lot more to explore.

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Fire: Comes With The Territory


SoCal is dry. It’s like living in a match factory. Everything is in place for major fires. One spark.

We got one this morning.

Dubbed the “Colby Fire,” the blaze started at around 5:50 a.m. Thursday morning and may have been started by people.

Glendora police arrested and charged three people with recklessly starting a fire. – Huffington Post

In other words, criminal stupidity!

Glendora, like Pasadena a few miles west, sits at the south end of the San Gabriel Mountains and Angeles National Forest.

Within a few hours the fire grew from campfire to 1,700 acres–twice the size of New York’s Central Park! Around a half dozen very expensive homes quickly burned to the ground.

You get your family and pets and you get out!

As spread out as SoCal is, there are huge chunks of land owned by the government. Lots of wilderness, the way it was when settlers first arrived. These are immense tracts in remote locations with steep canyon walls. Very difficult to reach, especially when on fire!

colby-fire-live-shotThis afternoon on TV it was plane after copter after copter after plane dropping water and chemicals on the blaze. Each individual bucketful, ineffectual. It will take dozens and dozens of drops to tame this fire.

This sort of thing can happen anywhere. Obviously, the more buried in the woods you are, the more likely you are to fall victim. From my minimal knowledge of that area, the homes that burned today had spectacular views and lots of privacy. They will be rebuilt.

Driving over the 405 this afternoon, the smoke layer trapped in the mid regions of the atmosphere was quite visible, though 25 miles north.

This is part of SoCal life. It comes with the territory.

Traffic And Doppler — Two Separate Subjects


You’ve probably heard about Southern California traffic. At times, it is everything you’ve been promised.

farrell-at-starbucksI drove to LA yesterday. Dinner with Farrell. He’s half the team that gave me my first real TV job. Though currently living in the California desert, he’s the consummate ex-pat.

2:30 going up. 1:05 coming home.

Helaine and I went out tonight. 1:05 going. :30 back to the house.

We drove the 405. It’s the San Diego Freeway. It doesn’t go to San Diego.


The main northbound side of the 405 is six lanes, plus an HOV lane. It’s wider still at interchanges.

To exit the highway from the HOV demands crossing six lanes of traffic! It is not for the squeamish.

When clear, traffic moves in the mid 70s. When jammed, cars crawl bumper-to-bumper mile-after-mile into the night.

There are many freeways. I’m clueless away from the few I know. How did people move like this pre-GPS and Internet? I drive now with impunity.

Helaine and I knew we’d be out a while. We left Doppler on her own.

This is a recent occurrence. We never let Ivy alone, nor had we with Doppler. In Connecticut we tried keeping Doppler in her crate. A remote video camera showed she was really upset. That had to stop.

doppler-in-the-kitchenNow we let her roam the house. She’s our free range chicken. Never destructive. Very good about ‘containing’ herself.

We were gone over five hours. No sweat. Mostly, she slept in the kitchen. She disappeared a few times, but the mic didn’t pick up barking. That’s good.

Doppler was very excited when we got home. We got a hero’s welcome.

We are very lucky. And the traffic sucks.