Thursday, January 14, 2010

Happenings: Hunker Down

News about a major series of storms coming to California is starting to pop up. I've been paying attention since a geologist/climatologist I know sent an email predicting that we will experience "a truly historic series of storms during the next three weeks." Below, I've pasted the beginning of a passage that describes what might come to pass as a series of large, powerful storms hit the West Coast[1]. Highlights for Southern California include a predicted minimum of 3-6" of rainfall from this Sunday to next Sunday, the potential for "a whole season's worth of rain fall over the course of 5 - 10 days" in some areas, and heavy snow as low as 3,000 feet that might melt rapidly from the rain dumped in subsequent storms. A story on The Weather Channel's site predicts that the mountains around LA may get half-a-foot of rain just on Monday[2].

I don't know how accurate these predictions are--I'm just repeating what the weather people say--but it sounds like the Santa Clara River could have a roaring good January and, by extension, those in floodplains might have a not so good one.

This message was forwarded to me (unattributed) in an email--after some Googling I believe it was written by Daniel Swain for his Weather West website[1]. Click on the link to finish reading it there--it's really interesting stuff, even for those who--like me--find weather to be a generally boring topic.

Currently, the strong El Nino is reaching its peak in the Eastern Pacific, and now finally appears to be exerting an influence on our weather. The strong jet has been apparent for quite some time out over the open water, but the persistent block had prevented it from reaching the coast. Now that the block has dissolved completely, a 200+ kt jet is barreling towards us. Multiple large and powerful storm systems are expected to slam into CA from the west and northwest over the coming two weeks, all riding this extremely powerful jet stream directly into the state. The jet will itself provide tremendous dynamic lift, in addition to directing numerous disturbances right at the state and supplying them with an ample oceanic moisture source. The jet will be at quite a low latitude over much of the Pacific, so these storms will be quite cold, at least initially. Very heavy rainfall and strong to potentially very strong winds will impact the lower elevations beginning late Sunday and continuing through at least the following Sunday. This will be the case for the entire state, from (and south of) the Mexican border all the way up to Oregon. Above 3000-4000 feet, precipitation will be all snow, and since temperatures will be unusually cold for a precipitation event of this magnitude, a truly prodigious amount of snowfall is likely to occur in the mountains, possibly measured in the tens of feet in the Sierra after it’s all said and done. But there’s a big and rather threatening caveat to that (discussed below).Individual storm events are going to be hard to time for at least few more days, since this jet is just about as powerful as they come (on this planet, anyway). Between this Sunday and the following Sunday, I expect categorical statewide rainfall totals in excess of 3-4 inches. That is likely to be a huge underestimate for most areas. Much of NorCal is likely to see 5-10 inches in the lowlands, with 10-20 inches in orographically-favored areas. Most of SoCal will see 3-6 inches at lower elevations, with perhaps triple that amount in favored areas.

This is where things get even more interesting, though. The models are virtually unanimous in “reloading” the powerful jet stream and forming an additional persistent kink 2000-3000 miles to our southwest after next Sunday. [continues at Weather West...]

[1]Please correct me if it's from a different source--I was just forwarded the same thing by someone saying it was from some unnamed people with NASA.
[2]Here's the TWC story

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