Saturday, November 21, 2009

Watching and Waiting

Friday 9 AM
It won't be long now. The sun was shining just twenty minutes ago. I could see blue sky through the swaying redwood branches in front of the Ancestral Digs. I made the coffee and loaded the washing machine and looked out the window of the Western DaveCave, and the blue skies had gone AWOL.

The new storm is at my doorstep, the rain is just an hour or so away according to the Weatherman on Channel 2 News. I scanned all the Forecast Discussions all evening, and first thing this morning. This one is really going to mess up the Trans-Sierra highways this evening. Watching the forecast's progression for the past few days has been fascinating. As I suspected, the winds are becoming the Big Story concerning this front. Both Sacramento and Reno used the phrase "White-Out" to describe the event. I'm glad I'll be heating up the kitchen while Mother Nature thrashes the High Sierra!

Here in the Bay Area, CalTrans Spokespeople were featured on the Morning News to assure the motoring public that their latest "Patch" to the cracked I-Bar on the Bay Bridge would be OK in the forecast winds. NWS SF Bay/Monterey has issued pages of warnings, watches and advisories. Everything from Gale Warnings to Weather Advisories are promising high winds to 45mph around the Bay Area.

Friday 4PM Update
I just returned from the Supermarket with a shopping cart-full of Thanksgiving fixins. Here in the Inland Valley the storm clouds are breaking up, revealing some very blue sky. Looking around the webcam world, the storm is really messing with the Trans Sierra Highways. While I was out, I tuned into Sacramento's NewsTalk station KFBK, and their Traffic Guy was reporting 33 CHP units rolling to accidents in the Greater Sacramento Area. The Truckee and Colfax CHP Stations are scrambling to keep up with the spin-outs, stuck motorists, and weather chaos. Chain controls went up after noon, and are in effect on 80 from Drum to Donner Lake Interchange. All Mountain Highways have controls now. This morning my niece saw snow near Orleans in the Siskiyous on her way out of town to drone south to the Ancestral Digs for the Holiday Week.

9PM Friday Night
It's all over for the Inland Valley now. Another trip to the supermarket, this time no wipers required. Judging from the webcam view, it's mostly over in the High Sierra too. It's hard to estimate exactly how much snow landed on my Mountain from the webcam, but there is new snow, but it doesn't look very deep. The wind drifted all that snow somewhere up there. My guess is that it's out in the trees, not on the trails. The mercury is falling fast, but relative humidity is almost snowmaking until things dry out some.

The Reno 21:30 AFD is up, and they're saying it's all over but the crying. Radar images are clear except for some echoes off Eureka. The storm is long gone for most of the Forecast Area. Mountain top sensors are reporting gusty winds still in the 50-60mph range.

6AM Saturday
That's a wrap! The fans are blowing snow this morning, and chain controls have shortened on 80 to cover just Kingvale to Truckee. Sensors say it's still windy up top, but nothing like the fierce blow from the front moving through. I'm curious to see snowfall reports later this morning...I still can't figure out if much snow accumulated by looking at the webcam images. Reno's 03:35 AFD says there's some flurries showing up on their radar, north of Pyramid Lake, but they should exit the area by daybreak. Reno says the winds will hanging around for the weekend, though so dress accordingly!

That was fun! Seeing how I didn't have to drop everything and travel up the hill made keeping track of the system's passage a vicarious thrill that I probably enjoyed a little too much.

Now, back to my Thanksgiving preparations!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Eyes on The Prize

Thursday Morning
The next Weather Event is headed towards NorCal. Before I got out of bed to make the coffee this morning, I logged on to the Reno NWS Discussion page to "keep my eye on the ball" I was not surprised to read:

"On Friday...The most significant impacts from the storm are trending more toward potential for strong winds...while precip and snow amounts in the Sierra are expected to be less significant. The fast movement of this storm with limited moisture tap will probably limit snowfall totals below the typical warning criteria...but significant impact on travel is likely. The strong winds combined with a few hours of moderate to heavy snow are likely to coincide with the Friday afternoon commute and busy travel period over the major passes between NRN Nevada and CNTRL CA valleys. To continue heightened awareness for the potential travel impacts...the Winter Storm Watch for NRN CA and Tahoe Zones will be maintained with the current forecast"

Friday morning, right in the crosshairs of the storm, SisterSweetly with my niece the FamilyGeologist will be driving down to the Ancestral Digs. That's a trip I'm glad I'm missing! NWS Sacramento says snow levels for the Redwood Empire Friday will be down to 4000ft,so they'll avoid chain controls. Somehow, rainstorms in the Redwood Empire seem wetter than elsewhere...perhaps that's why the Redwood Coast is so green.

El Niño Update
This afternoon, I caught up with the Climate Prediction Center's monthly update of their 90 Day Climate Outlook. I groused about October's cop-out on temps and precip, when they said they could go Above/Average/Below.

This month the CPC isn't saying anything chiseled in stone, but they "held the waffles" so to speak. They did allow their prediction of an "Enhanced likelihood of Above Average Temperatures for much of the Western Half of the Continental United States" For the rest of the country, they stood pat, continuing with their Win/Lose/Draw equivocation act.

On the precipitation front, the CPC didn't leave out the High Sierra, saying; "Above Median Precipitation Amounts are most likely in Texas, Florida, and in California, and in Northern sections of Alaska" How good is my Prediction looking now? Just what the odds say...average or above. Gimme a Gold Star! I wouldn't blame you if you wait 'till Spring, though...I won't take it personally!

About My Prediction
I'm starting to feel like a team mate of Tom Steinstra! Thursday's are Outdoors Section Day in the San Francisco Chronicle, and Tom continued with his Winter Weather Forecast story. Aside from his geography gaffe, Tom supplies further data that validates my Prediction.

Steinstra writes: "Meteorologist Mike Polansky found what might be a correlation between heavy rains in October and high annual rainfall. Since 1848, San Francisco has had more than 3 inches of rain in Octobernine times, including this year. Of the previous eight, six became very wet winters, one was normal, and one was below normal. In the past 40 years, wet Octobers occurred in 1972, 1982 and 2004, and each time a very wet winter followed".

Yikes! Do I ever remember the 82-83 season! I was a second year groomer/trainee and still spending most of my nights in Tucker SnoCats. I worked at the neighboring resort so I could get some time in a Thiocol 3700 Hydromaster Groomer like my boss drove. It snowed like the Devil that season, and back in the Grooming Stone Age, operators did plenty of time with a shovel in hand. Lot's of digging out Rolling Stock, and always at the end of a long cranky shift.

Reality Check
Today's Photo is the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite image of the 1997 El Niño taken December 1st, 1997. The Winter of 97-98 was the El Niño that set tongues to wagging about Global Warming in earnest.
Now compare this TOPEX/Poseidon image from November 1st, 2009

There's all the difference in the world between these two events, still I'll stand pat with respect to my Winter Prediction, thank you very much.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I haven't heard back from the Boss yet. He isn't going to beat the Target Opening Date by a week, like he wanted to. No fault on his part, Mother Nature always has the last word on Opening Dates. I did hear from the Chief, my Boss' Boss. My Mountain will open on the Target Opening Date, and not a minute earlier.

Like I said, Mother Nature always bats last. She's been having her way with the Weatherguys this week, messin' with their Models, teasing the Weather Teasers, and generally acting the Independent Free Spirit she is.

Last night's storm, named the "Table Setter" by the TV Weather Marketing Mavens, arrived on time, but at half the strength promised. A Bluebird Sunrise was nixed by the high humidity owing to acres and acres of bare moist ground with some telegenic white fluff on top of the duff, debris and ground cover. Chain Controls were up briefly, but not much of a mess by anyone's measure.

Hopes are pinned on the Friday into Saturday Storm. Resort Marketeers are Tweeting Feet! Expectations are high, and reality is getting pushed to the back of the stage, but the Weather Models run, and results are Discussed. This one is trending smaller from model run to model run. Winds are forecast to 105mph over the ridges, and the whole shebang will literally fly through. While the TV Guys are still saying 1-2 feet, the Forecasters only give Inches of Water Content in the Forecast Discussions, foregoing snowfall amounts so far.

Looking at the Webcams, I see fans blowing snow at 6PM Wednesday evening, they were spot on about the cold airmass behind this first system. The Reno NWS forecasters will run their suite of Computer Models three more times by the time the storm is expected to arrive. Time will tell if it hangs together and dumps some serious drifts, or if it blows through so fast that it's precipitation doesn't have chance to pile up. Wednesday night's 10PM Forecast says "7-8 hours of snowfall overnight Friday" Coming in with those high winds, it's hard to see it piling up very deeply...some may not even land in the same county where it falls!

I'll look in on it's progression via the Area Forecast Discussions, but I'm suiting up in my chef's apron for the rest of the week, Thanksgiving at the Ancestral Digs is at hand. If the weather interferes with that...well, that would be the Weather Story of the Year!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This is Fun!

New Snow 12:30 AM Wed
I made a banzai run up the Hill Monday morning. It was glorious in Truckee Monday afternoon, warm and colorful. I made my final "get ready for winter list" short enough so I won't lose any sleep over the remainder.

The Temperature Inversion Regime stayed in place for the last three nights, so there wasn't any Snowmaking. Tonight the snow is falling in the High Sierra, but the tail of the cold front really fell apart coming ashore and crossing the Valley. It should snow for another four or five hours, and a Bluebird Sunrise should be on tap.

There's another one headed our way for Thursday/Friday, that they say could give us a foot or two. The Forecast Discussion leads me to believe that this storm will move quickly through the area, so accumulations will likely be to the lean side of their forecast. The winds associated with the system should forestall formation of the temperature inversions for a couple of days after the front passes.

Maintenance Duty 12:30PM Saturday
I'm havin' too much fun today! Well, it is a Saturday! There's College Football on the TV, with the sound off... I prefer radio, so the little box is tuned to the local talker. I've been working on the CorduroyPlanet Toolbox all afternoon. I wonder how all the resorts decided that this was the week to put their Webcams online? It has to be the latest snowfall...making ski resorts look like...well, Ski Resorts.

I ran this drill two weeks ago. Back then only Alpine Meadows, Boreal, and Sugar Bowl's webcams were live. I see most resorts are touting their planned November 20th opening dates today. That's why Webcams from Mt Rose, Diamond Peak, Ski Tahoe Donner, Kirkwood, Northstar, Sierra at Tahoe, Squaw Valley, Homewood, and Heavenly are online today. My informal survey finds a roughly even split between pretty viewcams and snowmaking cams.

So now I've built a Webcam Toolbox. These webcams are fascinating. Eventually, Resort Marketing Departments will reign in their hyperbole to the RealWorldView because the Webcams can not tell a lie! Truth is always the best's so Real...

Woolly Worm Report Published 12:30PM Sunday
The San Francisco Chronicle's Outdoor Writer, Tom Steinstra published his annual "Winter Weather Forecast" Sunday. Tom's forecasts have always been peppered with observations of nature (minus woolly worm data this year) but he may have something in with his "Coastal Temperature Interface" theory.

Steinstra writes:
"There's a direct relationship between sea temperatures and air temperatures at coastal towns that affects how storms move onshore. When the sea is cold and land is warm, that temperature gap acts like a wall that forces storms north into the Pacific Northwest. When the temperatures are the same, the storms wheel right in over Northern California. Take the readings when the front moves onshore."

Might Tom's Interface be part of the Local Ridge Forming Mechanism? Could be...I looked back through Tom's Archive, and he's on a roll. Last year Tom cited the Woolley Worms, but got it right. My search didn't find Tom's 2007 Forecast, but he's on form in 2006 as well.

It serves me right for not keeping a Weather Journal. It's going to be a huge project to find an collate all the data going back just a few years. The payoff will be like Christmas Morning I hope!

The Lunar effect is obvious when it comes to the tides, less obvious is the Moon's role in Great Earthquakes. Historically, most of the Great Earthquakes have occured near the Full or New Moon, when the gravitational effect of the Moon is at it's greatest.

The English Language features the word Lunatic, implying a belief that the Moon has influence on Human Behavior. I wouldn't rule out the Moon's influence on storm formation or progress tracks. There's way more to our weather and climate systems than you can keep a casual eye on.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

El Niño Building

Well, isn't this an interesting development? NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced Friday that El Niño looks like it's gaining strength on it's way to a classic Christmas Debut.

I can never tell with NASA these it Science or more Climate Change Hype meant to help come Budget Time in Washington? Government has become America's only Growth Industry this year, so why wouldn't NASA want in on the HandOuttaPalooza? Follow the money goes the familiar saying...

For some detailed information, I went to the NWS' Climate Prediction Discussion to glean whatever they modeled for their October 15th 90 Day Product. Nothing too serious there...they're saying it's a toss-up between High/Normal/Low Temps and High/Normal/Low Precipitation for the Central California Area.

Man, they always say that when El Niño comes around.

As a taxpayer, I can only think: Whatta Jyp! These climate science guys want us to believe the sky is falling, that "Earth's got a Fever", and all that rot, and they can't back-model El Niño to figure which way it's effects are pointed this time around? Is this the 21st Century? Why on Earth do these charlatans have any credibility left at all? Remember the "Little Boy Who Cried Wolf"?

We get to see their cards on the table next Thursday November 19th, when the next 90 Day Climate Outlook is issued. Perhaps the CPC's models will have aligned this time out.

With our star seemingly on an extended Holiday, and the PDO shifting gears, there are many data points that aren't being modeled for in my estimation. Nobody on my radar is saying this El Niño is much more than moderate. Strengthening is a relative term...

Yikes! @SkiTahoeDonner just tweeted: "Friday and Saturday 6-12 inches at the lake and 18-24 inches above 7000ft. Looking like a good winter ahead of us." Where's that coming from? I wondered...Quickly, I checked Reno and Sacramento's AFD's Hmmm, no sign of feet next weekend there...perhaps they pay for a very Optimistic Weather Forecast Service!

My Mountain has a "Service" like that...I don't think much of it, all they do is get the Brass all riled up, only to disappoint when the impossible expectations aren't met.