Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Drought or no drought?

From page A4 | January 24, 2014 | 23 Comments

An examination of the Mountain Democrat rainfall records for the past 139 years finds no precedent for this year’s pathetic precipitation to date.

To recap the rain year that began July 1, 2013, September recorded 0.11 inch of rain. That is not an unusual figure for September, which has averaged 0.54 inch and had zero rainfall 46 times in the past 139 years. October is not a big part of the rain year either. This October recorded 0.05 inch vs. an average of 2.11 inches and 17 Octobers with zero rainfall. November was not bad, recording 1.3 inches, though the 139-year average for November is 4.39 inches and only six Novembers recorded zero rainfall.

December is more problematic, recording only 0.1 inch of rain. The 139-year average is 6.69 inches and only two Decembers have been zero rainfall months.

January has only seen 0.05 inch of rain and the extended forecast from AccuWeather is for continued sunny to partly cloudy days through Jan. 31.

At this point the Placerville rain stats are worse than they were in the drought years of 1975-77. In the 1975-76 rain season, which ended the year with 15.9 inches compared to the average of 39.57 inches, there was more rainfall than we have had so far. October 1975 had 4.86 inches vs 0.05 in 2013. November 1975 had 2.22 inches vs. 1.3 for 2013. December 1975 had 1.24 inches vs. 0.1 in 2013. January 1976 was not that great, recording 0.62, a tad more than 0.05 in 2014.

The figures for 1976-77 were 15.86 total for the year, with 0.15 in October, 1.59 in November, 0.17 in December and 2.9 in January.

So far we are on track for a record low rain year. The high pressure ridge that has kept California sunny and warm, sending storm systems through the Pacific Northwest and Alaska and eventually toward the Midwest, has not budged. An article in the San Jose Mercury News describes it as nearly 4 miles high and 2,000 miles long. No atmospheric scientist or oceanographer has been able to explain why it is so strong for so long. One named it the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge.”

“It’s like the Sierra — a mountain range just sitting off the West Coast — only bigger,” Bob Benjamin, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Monterey, told the Mercury-News. “This ridge is sort of a mountain in the atmosphere. In most years, it comes and goes. This year it came and didn’t go.”

A deeper explanation may come from the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Here is the explanation of the PDO from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

“The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) is a long-term ocean fluctuation of the Pacific Ocean. The PDO waxes and wanes approximately every 20 to 30 years. From TOPEX/Poseidon (satellite) data together with other oceans and atmospheres data, scientists think we have just entered the ‘cool’ phase. The ‘cool’ phase is characterised by a cool wedge of lower than normal sea-surface heights/ocean temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific and a warm horseshoe pattern of higher than normal sea-surface heights connecting the north, west and southern Pacific. In the ‘warm’ or ‘positive’ phase, which appears to have lasted from 1977-1999, the west Pacific Ocean becomes cool and the wedge in the east warms.”

By the way, the PDO was discovered in 1996 by Steven Hare at the University of Washington. He, along with colleagues Nathan Mantua, Yuan Zhang, Robert Francis and Mike Wallace discovered the pattern as part of work on fish populations.

“If the Pacific Decadal Oscillation has switched, we are likely to have 20-30 years with lower rainfall than we have had since the late ’70s. We will still have winter rains, but the number of really wet years is likely to decrease,” according to NASA’s JPL Website.

Though El Nino or La Nina will ride over the PDO, they currently are not in effect at all, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. With no El Nino to give a strong clue about precipitation, NOOA said this about California and the West:

“The rest of the country falls into the ‘equal chance’ category, meaning that there is not a strong or reliable enough climate signal in these areas to favor one category over the others, so they have an equal chance for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures and/or precipitation.”

The dismal record so far could change in the next two or three months. AccuWeather’s extended forecast calls out five days of rain in February including one of those being a thunderstorm. The Weather Underground’s extended forecast includes the potential for rain the first week in February.

In 139 years of rain measurements both February and March have never had zero years. Fifty-five times February has had less than 5 inches of rain and 18 times less than 2 inches. March has had less than 5 inches 63 times and less than 2 inches 18 times.

Rain is in our future. The question is, how much?

Mountain Democrat


Discussion | 23 comments

  • 1036-FrankJanuary 23, 2014 - 9:12 am

    Folsom Lake is now a new giant sand desert with a small river channel in the middle and a tourist attraction with boat launches a mile from water. Why after three years of minimal rainfall the feds would allow the lake to be at 15-18% of capacity and dropping is a disaster in the making. At the same time the billion dollar Bummer special make-work "flood control" rebuild of Folsom Dam continues on a massive scale as the lake disappears and several hundred thousand may soon see their main water source disappear.

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  • Foaming at the MouthJanuary 23, 2014 - 9:28 am

    Foaming just knew that somehow this drought was Barack Obama's fault! Thanks for clarifying, Frank.

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  • ThirstyJanuary 23, 2014 - 4:57 pm

    For all of the daily stories about the drought, not one asks why did USBR drain so much out of Folsom last year. Still their outflow is three times the inflow. They regulate the outflow to maintain a cold water temperature for the salmon without any regard to storage or people. What did the salmon do for 100,000 years prior to the dam being built in 1949? Mother Nature provided rain in the winter and the river flows lowered in the summer and yet somehow the salmon lived, much better than before the environmentalist started controlling the river flows.

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  • cookie65January 24, 2014 - 7:30 am

    EnviroMENTALists are natures worst enemy. But they feel good about what they do.

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  • EdwardJanuary 24, 2014 - 10:45 am

    How's that "No Climate Change" doing guys?

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  • EvelynJanuary 24, 2014 - 10:48 am

    Nobody argues that the WEATHER does not change. But is that the same as "climate change"?

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  • Dink LaneJanuary 24, 2014 - 11:03 am

    Evelyn: You're into facts... We did an experiment in college -- filled a glass room full of smoke. The room had doors and windows on opposite sides.... We put a fan by the door and had the windows wide open.... The fan could not clear the smoke out of the room UNTIL we turned off the smoke.... Now look at the Jet Stream and see how it has bowed on a path it's never had before.... Weather patterns? Yes part.... but NO Climate Change? That's bias...

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  • EvelynJanuary 24, 2014 - 11:29 am

    Dink: Was it possible to calculate the degree to which classroom conditions approximated atmospheric conditions?

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  • Phil VeerkampJanuary 24, 2014 - 11:31 am

    Dink, what happened when you turned on the class room's fire sprinklers and simulated rain?

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  • Dink LaneJanuary 24, 2014 - 10:56 am

    Thirsty: Contrary to Cookie's statement..... The lakes were drained by the "Mandatory" release of water from both SHASTA (14%) and FOLSOM (17%).... to meet Contracts with San Joaquin Valley Farmers who grow Cotton (with No market) and grains..... In order to pump out of the Tracy, the Delta's fresh water must be high enough .... It's about BIG MONEY..... (Cookie...Environmentalist don't have that kind of money)

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  • EvelynJanuary 24, 2014 - 11:26 am

    "Sheriffs Stand Tall for the Constitution " - HERE: One topic of discussion was the United States Forest Service (USFS) Travel Management Plan, which if allowed, will illegally close public roads and according to many Sheriff's, jeopardize the safety of their communities. Another topic was the removal of Dams on the Klamath River ..... "Siskiyou County is ground zero in the battle to defend our food, water, energy, building materials, metals, and minerals against Big Government's multi-faceted and ever-increasing assault that will, if not stopped, ultimately destroy our nation's true National Treasury: our land, natural resources, and the hard-working farmers, ranchers, timbermen, and miners that are their true stewards; and end our self-reliance, sovereignty, security, and prosperity. The situation is far worse than most Americans realize."

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  • James E.January 24, 2014 - 11:46 am

    Any experiment is flawed by variables that were not controlled. And, hard to do as often variables are unknown. So, one tries to control known variables, but unknown variables always taint the experimental result.

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  • Phil VeerkampJanuary 24, 2014 - 11:58 am

    AHHH!!! Good going, Colonel. You are finally (a little late) starting to understand Rumsfeld's known unknowns, unknown unknowns, Known Knowns and unknown knowns . . . keep at it, James. Conservatism may be just around the corner for you . . . unknown to you.

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  • EvelynJanuary 24, 2014 - 12:03 pm

    Sorry, Phil. Checking for variables ain't the exclusive domain of conservatives!!!

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  • R.J. CarterJanuary 24, 2014 - 11:57 am

    James....I think it's also highly possible that a Liberal college Professor might taint the result.of a college experiment on global warming held in his classroom.......Young Impressionable minds.....

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  • Dink LaneJanuary 24, 2014 - 12:01 pm

    Carter... You saying that the experiment wasn't real? or just rigged? What about the size of particles and the impedance to wind?

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  • R.J. CarterJanuary 24, 2014 - 12:05 pm

    Phil.....I only got the chance to get on line a couple times yesterday, but from what I saw, our good Colonel was going through kind of a feisty streak......Are you trying to get his feathers ruffled up again today????.....LOL.....

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  • James E.January 24, 2014 - 12:06 pm

    Phil, my BA is in experimental psychology, so I've known about variables for a long, long time. And, my MS is in counseling, so I've known how to counsel Republicans for a long, long time. My PhD (honorary) is in Army, with emphasis on destruction of the foreign enemies of the United States.

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  • James E.January 24, 2014 - 12:08 pm

    R.J., I was a little overboard yesterday but Evelyn thinks it was because I was sick. I'm less overboard today and feeling better so maybe Evelyn was right.

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  • R.J. CarterJanuary 24, 2014 - 12:12 pm

    Lane......While I'm not going to debate so called climate change with anyone using a phony name, I will say that I was just basically just agreeing with was James said.....

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  • EvelynJanuary 24, 2014 - 12:17 pm

    Good grief, peace in the valley?

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  • Phil VeerkampJanuary 24, 2014 - 12:16 pm

    Again, Colonel you demonstrate progress in flirting with the admission that liberalism is a disease. ((( nudge and wink in R. J.'s direction)))

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  • James E.January 24, 2014 - 12:29 pm

    My wife just departed to visit her sister in Roseville. My wife always wants me to spray off the car as her sister, 79, apparently has never seen a car that needs to be sprayed off. As I started to do it, a light bulb went on and I said, "No, I won't do it. Do you know how much precious water I will be wasting just so your sister will be happy? I didn't spray the car, and I'm so proud of myself -- and if my wife pouts when she returns I'll remind her she will really be pouting when there is no water to take her showers.

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