Wednesday, August 12, 2009


No blast furnace deja vu in the Folk's driveway this AM...granted I was picking up the fishwrap earlier than yesterday. The haze became overcast overnight, and the outlook was for "Missed It By A Mile"

After watching my Giants lose to the Dodgers on the tube last night, I heard the top of the hour weather forecast on the radio say: "A few degrees cooler in the Inland Valleys tomorrow, with low clouds and coastal fog returning by the end of the week"

I dressed up a little today, and I took my Mom to her monthly church luncheon. My trousers had deep-set wrinkles from our last church to-do, so into the dryer for a touch-up they went. Pulling the hot trousers on beneath my new Hawaiian shirt would have been unbearable yesterday, but not it's 18F cooler than yesterday...breezy too.

I checked the Sacramento NWS Fire Weather Forecast, it's mid-70's up the hill today, same as here in the Inland Valley...cue 86: "Missed it by that much"

Why quibble you say? I'm just sayin'...making a point. Here's my dreaded ENSO Effect in CenCal...mid-summer...the local NWS Forecast is off by 6X on the 24hr temp change forecast!

I'm not dissing the scientists at the local NWS Office (Monterey,CA I think?) I don't pay much attention to the Bay Area Weather as a rule...not like the way I follow along with my local forecasters at home during Ski Season!

If you stop to think about it, the NWS has been amazingly good the past few years compared to 20-30 years ago. Technology and the Computer Modeling Arts have evolved into reliable tools that we've all come to rely on since we entered the "Space Age" a half century ago.

The downside of their success is our own Raised Expectations...we expect accurate forecasts, and gripe mightily when they miss their mark by even a little. Back East there was even a lawsuit filed against the NWS by the survivors and heirs of fishermen lost at sea during a terrible, un-forecasted Nor'easter. To be honest, I don't know if the suit was allowed by the Court, or the outcome...if any. The timeline of this suit ran well before the current financial malaise developed, so it wasn't just out of work Ambulance Chasers trying to drum up business.

The Tech Explosion of the last few decades have given us an arsenal of weather observation tools. Fast, powerful computers and software have helped grow meteorology into the respected science it is today...even Local TV WeatherPeople make the big money now. Studies show that before Social Networking and iPorn assumed the helm, the Number One driver of Internet Growth was regular folks checking the weather from their home computers. Just another growth cycle in the Human Story...

The latest swing in the tech cycle coincided perfectly with the warm side of ENSO, so the development of the computer models occurred during the warm phase and performed OK as long as Sea Surface Temps (SSTs) stayed "normal" or above...when
La Niña events prevail, accuracy goes out the window.

OK, I'd better get my terms straight now, ENSO is Weather Geek-Speak for

" El Niño-Southern Oscillation" ENSO may be part of another Pacific Ocean Climate Engine: PDO, or "Pacific Decadal Oscillation"

Wiki says:

"The PDO is a pattern of Pacific climate variability that shifts phases on at least inter-decadal time scale, usually about 20 to 30 years. The PDO is detected as warm or cool surface waters in the Pacific Ocean, north of 20° N. During a "warm", or "positive", phase, the Western Pacific becomes cool and part of the Eastern Pacific warms; during a "cool" or "negative" phase, our Eastern Pacific cools."

OK, Here's what I really meant to say: The WeatherTech Explosion coincided with the Warm Phase of the PDO...I was a Cheerios Kid...AlphaBits? Not so much...that goes for Alphabet Soup too...sorry if I've got you all confused now, I'll get it all ironed out before the snow flies!

I may be speaking outta school, but it seems to me that when you develop your tools during the warm regime, and your tools under-perform during La Niña events, you may have more tool development to do, especially now that the PDO has shifted Negative! I'm not exactly sure why I have faith that "they're working on it"...if I was in their shoes, I'd be busy getting the show ready for PrimeTime.

Why this matters to me:

Day Trippers watch the Weather Channel and their favorite Local TV WeatherCaster like hawks watching field mice when they're considering a trip to the slopes! My Mountain's bottom line depends on their seats riding on our chairlifts, and Californians, especially Day Trippers are clearly becoming more like "Fair Weather Warriors" every season...after all, avoiding excess fuss and muss leaves more time to enjoy even more entertainments generated by our culture!

I admit I went into last season with a deep sense of dread. Last fall, people were playing their hands close to their vests, and I figured we'd really feel the contraction in the Economy. (Though I was buoyed by the soft gasoline prices)...Turns out the American Consumers are way more complex than I'd given them credit for! We actually had a decent increase in mid-week visits. Our weekends were softer...due mostly to weekend weather, and highway issues. These slowed the crowds, but some weekends without travel dramas went bust behind bad weather forecasts that kept folks home needlessly.

I guess folks were working a little less, but still sneaking up the hill to bag some freshies when they thought they had the weather Go-Ahead.

Anticipate changeable conditions when you're thinking of coming up...use the tools available in Real Time...most resorts have Webcams and Weather Pages, the NWS has RealTime data pages, CalTrans has Webcams, Chambers of Commerce Cams too. Use the NWS Sacramento and Reno Office Zone Forecast Pages in lieu of the prettied-up national weather websites (Hint: the real straight dope from the forecasters is found in the NWS Forecast Discussion)

There's good cell coverage all along the I-80 Corridor. Armed with your iPhones and Blackberries (and the Hands Free Stuff) you'll have instant intel in RealTime. Clearly the resolution of our forecasts will be less than we're used to until the WeatherGuys come to grips with the Pacific's New Regime. So, a little Game Plan Adjustment on our part is called for.

So when you're watching another Valley Forecaster "Curing the Drought" on their 11PM forecast, don't fold your cards...go All In and set your alarm anyway...the weather will be what it is in the's worth a look...hell, you might beat the system and end up with the Mountain all to yourself...with "Surprise" BlueBird Weather to boot! I'll be working with a Mountain-full of happy groomers (we hate missed opportunities for fun on the Mountain, too!)...enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Watts points to a fascinating study that correlates low frequency PDO and historical climate shifts today.

    From the summary --

    "These observations are consistent with the occurrence of climate shifts at 1960, the mid-1970s, and early 2001 identified by Swanson and Tsonis. Knowledge of the complex atmospheric-ocean physical processes is not involved or required in making these findings. Global surface temperatures as a function of time are also not required to be known."


    Ocean heat content and Earth’s radiation imbalance