The Perfect Storm: California's Record Breaking December Super-Soaker

California-Dec2014-storm(NASA JPL) A new time-lapse animation of data from NOAA’s GOES-West satellite provides a good picture of why the U.S. West Coast continues to experience record rainfall. The new animation shows the movement of storms from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3.

NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites or GOES-West imagery from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3 was compiled into a 36 second video made by NASA/NOAA’s GOES Project at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The video shows a low pressure system several hundred miles west of California on Nov. 30. South of the center of the low, a large stream of moisture from the Pacific Ocean was swept up and transported east over the southern part of the state and Baja California, Mexico. Over the course of Dec. 1, 2 and 3 as the low approached the coast the stream of moisture merged with the low, bringing more rains to southern California on Dec. 3.

Water managers are not calling the storm that dropped several inches of rain onto Southern California on Tuesday, Dec. 2, a drought-buster, and climate scientists are not labeling it an El Niño event.

Bill Patzert, climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California who studies ocean patterns, said “scientists have not yet declared an El Niño, and if they do, it would be weak and not necessarily bring torrential rains like in 1997 through 1998, the year that super El Niño’ storms drenched Southern California.”

Patzert called the storm a pineapple express of tropical origin that met up with a low-pressure system off the coast. “It is warmer moisture – like a fire hose aimed at us from the south of Hawaii,” Patzert said. “This is an event. It is not a pattern.”

According to the National Weather Service office in Los Angeles, rainfall on Dec. 2 in downtown Los Angeles was 1.21 inches, setting a new record for that date. The previous record was 1.10 inches that fell in 1961. The Los Angeles International Airport recorded a record-breaking 1.12 inches of rainfall on Dec. 2, beating the 1966 record of 0.73 inches.

In Santa Barbara even more rain fell, where a record-breaking total measured was 2.14 inches on Dec. 2. The old record was set in 1966 when 2.12 inches of rain fell. Records were also set on Dec. 2 in Lancaster Fox Field, Calif. with 1.14 inches of rain, Sandberg with 1.49 inches, Palmdale with 1.20 inches, and the Long Beach Airport with 1.04 inches. Further south at Fullerton Airport, a record-setting 0.58 inches fell on Dec. 2.

There is some good news from the rainfall. Patzert pointed to the wetter chaparral in the Southern California foothills “tamping down the prospect of extreme wildfires when the Santa Ana winds are expected to return shortly.” He also pointed up north to snow falling in the Sierra Nevada. Snowpack in that region is where the state gets 95 percent of its water. .

To create the video and imagery, NASA/NOAA’s GOES Project takes the cloud data from NOAA’s GOES-East satellite and overlays it on a true-color image of land and ocean created by data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS, instrument that flies aboard NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites. Together, those data created the entire picture of the storm and show its movement. After the storm system passes, the snow on the ground becomes visible.

GOES satellites provide the kind of continuous monitoring necessary for intensive data analysis. Geostationary describes an orbit in which a satellite is always in the same position with respect to the rotating Earth. This allows GOES to hover continuously over one position on Earth’s surface, appearing stationary. As a result, GOES provide a constant vigil for the atmospheric “triggers” for severe weather conditions such as tornadoes, flash floods, hail storms and hurricanes.

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89 thoughts on “The Perfect Storm: California's Record Breaking December Super-Soaker

  1. torrential rains like in 1997 through 1998, the year that super El Niño’ storms drenched Southern California.
    Do we really have enough years of data to know if those rains were caused by that super El Niño’ and not coincidental randomness ?

    • I have added blockquote to my dictionary so I won’t misspell it again and screw up.

      torrential rains like in 1997 through 1998, the year that super El Niño’ storms drenched Southern California.

      Do we really have enough years of data to know if those rains were caused by that super El Niño’ and not coincidental randomness ?

  2. So you now have some rain. If money had been spant on building dams to save this water then that would have been money well spent. Instead that money was squandered on GREEN policies that don’t work.
    Learn this lesson please.

    • They have dams. They’re currently spending millions tearing them down! All to protect some obscure fish or rodent or frog or whatever. Enjoy your 200 year drought, Californians! Let’s see what frogs will be left after that!

      • Sorry, but that’s propaganda. A very few earthen dams have been eliminated UPSTREAM from other larger catch basins. There has been no reduction in holding capacity.
        What has happened is federal regulators ordering the release of thousands of acre feet of our much needed water for various reasons, some of them totally foolish.

      • Not all to protect a fish. Sometimes we do it because someone thinks an area would be prettier the way it was in the 20’s before the dam was built. There are some black and white pictures surviving that indicate we had a forest there then. San Franciscans don’t need the dams, if only the farmers would quit growing so much damn food. Who needs fruit and vegetables anyway? We can always import it from Canada or Mexico. Besides, who needs a dam when we have a Department of Water Resources? When they’re not viewing porn, they’re jetting of to some lush area of the world that either has water or doesn’t, and ‘learning’ about water management. That’s all we really need here in California – just a bunch of people who claim to know a lot about water management. They don’t actually have to do anything (except propose new taxation – Water Bond – that is 60+% allocated to… protect some obscure fish or rodent or frog or whatever). Life is good here. Remember, when it is raining, we don’t need more dams, and when it’s not raining, the dam won’t capture anything anyway. I mean, Duh!

    • We have dams. The problem is idiots living in areas where the “climate” is “nice – i.e. warm and dry. The sole problem the state really has respecting water is the amount promised by the federal and state governments to places like the southern San Joaquin Valley where we have farmers raising crops like cotton with high irrigation needs and dairies, and L.A.where water has been a political and real estate football since the Owens Valley Project destroyed the economy of an entire region simply to line developers pockets. North of the delta even with short falls in rain the north state would have been fine.
      The present dry spell is not a true drought by any long temporal measure. Tree stumps under water in Lake Tahoe and other high Sierran lakes are evidence of very, very long term droughts (decades to over a century in span) that no number of dams could mitigate, and those real droughts happened less than 2,000 years ago.

      • Duster. Re the cotton crops etc, doesn’t that have shades of the Aral Sea? ie water was diverted from the sea to cotton production, thereby causing a 70% reduction in size….. Resulting in violent sand storms in the area and massive poverty for the peoples…

    • On the Yucaipa Ridge on the southern side of the San Bernardino Mountains they recorded 14.60 inches of rainfall. This was collected behind the Seven Oaks Dam which was just built a few years ago, so not all was wasted.
      The water released from Seven Oaks travels down the Santa Ana River to Prado Dam where it recharges the aquifer in the Chino Basin. Water released from Prado flows to the Santa Ana spreading basins before flowing to the Pacific Ocean.
      The foothill areas of the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mtns. received 2-5 inches of rain and higher amounts were received on southwest facing slopes further back into the forest. This water is sent through percolation basins below the mountains to recharge the aquifers.
      As the post noted, it was beneficial in that it was a decent magnitude spread over a few days, allowing more capture of the water. Unfortunately it would require 7-8 similar events each year to provide the water needs of the area.

  3. Pfft -there’s no rain. None at all. It’s just lies. California is currently experiencing the worst drought ever in the history of the planet, directly caused by SUVs and electrical generation. Rain? Don’t make me laugh. No rain. Maybe a slight mist, but it won’t amount to anything. Also it’s partly caused by aerosol cans, air conditioning, and our grandparents. And Republicans. They did this. Shame on them.

    • Absolutely there is rain.

      setting a new record for that date

      Not only rain, but extremity due to global climate change and warming.
      The trouble is, *anything* is considered climate change, and climate change as a term is denoting global warming. Thus even snow and record cold would be just proof for global warming.

    • Here in the middle of the Central Valley of CA, we had by my measurement 2.1 inches fall in this last week. As far as the drought….a literal drip in the barrel

  4. With the rain comes the growth in brush and then with the drier weather comes the fires.
    Rain = plant growth = fires
    Lived in southern California for a few years. That is the natural cycle.

    • Shake and bake…
      Problem in SoCal is that the rain falls in fits and spurts, so that people forget what precipitation is,
      wreaking havoc on the freeways (which are bad enough as it is….).

  5. Drought in the desert brought months of moaning, so it rains and they say “it can’t be all bad”?

  6. I can’t help but thank the climate alarmists for their predictions regarding droughts.
    First here in Australia it was “never going to rain again” and within two weeks we saw record breaking rainfall. Well, not two weeks after California was declared “dead” and “never going to see another drop of rain” due to global warming they get a huge moisture flow to ease, and hopefully break, the drought there too.
    These soothsayers should be paid to travel to anywhere needing a spot of rain and declare that it’ll never happen again.
    Here down under we call it the Flannery effect.

    • Weird but true. Just like the Gore effect you can set your watch by it. Mind you the old native rain dances were more fun to watch. Can we get them to predict massive cold? I could use some warmth 🙂

    • It most certainly is a pattern. In the PNW, it’s called the Pineapple Express, & can produce a Chinook, the rapid snow melting combined with rain that famously produces December flooding, but usually later in the month.
      It just usually hits us instead of CA. Right now we suffer under a frigid Arctic high blocking the Express from dumping more snow (or possibly rain, as the forecast is for above freezing tomorrow) on OR, WA & ID. Maybe BC.

      • Well, here in BC we had record heat, which followed record cold, then after the record heat we had some more record cold. I’m talking about all time, for the day records. Near the end of September, meteorologists were declaring how very unlikely we would reach the average for rainfall, but by the end of September we were 20% above the average. Then in October we only had 11 days where it did not rain.
        And throughout all this weather I was able to ride my bike to the coffee shops nearly every single day.

      • Garymount, i look at the high and lows recorded in the Province, the highs for fall months were reached back in the 40s and 50s, it used to be called an Indian summer. Thats what our parents and granparents called it. Also we didnt break any cold records, but came close on Tuesday.

      • @ milo, thanks , took the words out of my keyboard. Same here in Southern BC and Alberta of course but I have to add it happens more often, and all during the winter months. Tonight we are getting a by-effect of the Pine Apple express, freezing rain. For a short period this warm wet Pacific air overhead dumped some rain on us while the valleys bottoms were still well below freezing. (stayed home, in mountains, freezing rain and travel is very dangerous).

    • “This is an event. It is not a pattern.”
      That caught my eye, too.
      If it is not a pattern, or at least part of a pattern, then how can they give it a name used in the past, such as “Pineapple Express”?

  7. OK, I live out in the real desert – the Mojave. We got 1.2″. The pucker bushes oth here were starting to look pretty “gray”. Critters were getting rarely seen. Last night we got another minor rain shower, I’ve been out here for 25 years and think I’ve a feel for the rainy season. We had a little storm come through in early Nov, good sign. This bigger one (even if it is mostly a Pineapple) is a good sign. A couple more real rains will set the north Mojave more or less back to nominal (4″/yr!).
    I just have to comment about the dam comment. It’s not going to happen. Whatever the 20th century logic might be for drowning Sierra canyons, those days are past. It would be like trying to build a nuclear power plant, the resistant on many fronts would kill any attempt. The state gov of California, immersed in all of it’s progressive weirdnesses, actually is starting to come to some kind of action on ground water. Maybe we will advance the water law from the 19th century! Big Ag uses by far the greatest amount of water in Kali, some 4X as much as urban. The question is how is that going to be balanced in the future. 40 million people aren’t just going to go away.

    • 40 million people aren’t just going to go away. @Randy in Ridgecrest

      I have freinds and family who hope your right, but unfortunately the Kali’s are emegrating to other states and are dragging the failed unsistainable policies that is making them enviro-social refugees, with them.

      • We have experienced Californication in Oregon since the ’60s, which has transformed this state from the most liberal conservative state to one of the most liberal. You’d think the immigrants would have learned not to replicate their disastrous mistakes here, but no.
        The same has happened in CO & is happening in MT, ID, UT & AZ. WA was already commie in its western cities, as in “the 47 states & the Soviet of Washington”, but at least its Democrats supported private sector workers, because of Boeing. Not any more. It’s public sector all the way, but Central & Eastern Washington & its SW still have a pro-American majority, all more populous than the comparable regions of OR.

    • Every time I read about what California politicians are doing to the farming there all I think about is Chinatown and trying for a land grab. I keep expecting to see Jack Nicholson.

      • A relevant remark about California. You should see the “Stop the Tunnels” signs around the delta. They are common in the delta and to the north, but disappear pretty quickly to the south. Good ol’ Jerry – not.

    • I beg to differ…. Many people are leaving Ca due to government foolishness in over taxing and regulating industry. With the carbon tax due next month even more will leave. In ten more years of liberal quackery, I predict a 15 to 20 % population reduction. In my home town we have lost 20% of the industry just this year. The reason given? The price of energy and the cost of regulation…. Both related to carbon madness.

      • Don’t forget that 8 out of 10 liberals that vote live in the large coastal areas…the rest of the state is quite conservative. We are outnumbered by social idiots unfortunatly

      • You don’t want to forget all those San Joaquin Valley “conservative” farmers who support Brown’s water initiatives like the delta tunnels. Nor the Orange County Republicans who do the same. These folks want the benefits of north California resources, but hate having to pay for them.

    • “It would be like trying to build a nuclear power plant, the resistant on many fronts would kill any attempt.”
      In Kali, nuclear likely is impossible. In Georgia, it’s full steam ahead. Vogtle units 3 and 4 are expected to
      be placed in service in 2017 and 2018, respectively. See the videos at
      Greg

  8. The LA Times spent days promoting the impending storm as “extreme” or a disastrous outlier indicative of climate change. Then the storm hits, and it’s a very nice bit of water coming down in our parched community. Just right. Not so much we get widespread flooding or mudslides, mostly just a gentle continuous rain, recharging the snow pack and the aquifers.
    Hooray!
    Yesterday they finally published an article admitting it was “A perfect storm” e.g. Just what the doctor ordered, not “a perfect storm” as in a once in a century horrible down pour. Maybe I was inside working when it happened, but I didn’t see any really heavy rain, just a good slow consistent rain.
    It really was a perfect storm.
    Looking forward, what we need to do is restructure the storm drain system of vast cement culverts that funnel all that precious water straight to the oceans. Needs to be changed into a series of catch basins and meandering streams that allow the water to seep into the ground and recharge the aquifers. We also need a few big desalinization facilities so they can stop harping on us to conserve all the time. I’m all for conservation, but we live in a semi-arid desert. Build a few desal plants to ease the regular small droughts and prepare for the predictable intermittent bad droughts.

  9. “Water managers are not calling the storm that dropped several inches of rain onto Southern California on Tuesday, Dec. 2, a drought-buster…”
    No mater how much it rains during a drought, the powers that be always say that. They are not prepared to collect a significant percentage of the runoff. I wonder if they have stats for that? What % of the precipitation was collected? They have plenty of statistics for everything else. CA will have to increase the % of runoff collected if they are going to mitigate this problem in the future.

    • The uncollected precipitation represent considerable amounts of top-soil and ocean polluting Nutrients, you’d think the cries to solve the problem and save the seas would be deafening!

  10. Following the huge flood of 1938, almost the entire system of tributaries and river ways were encased in concrete all the way to the ocean. We have huge catch basins to catch the bulk of the storm run offs, but the normal constant flow of water just flows straight to the sea.
    From Wiki:
    “Between February 27 and 28, 1938, a storm from the Pacific Ocean moved inland into the Los Angeles Basin, running eastward into the San Gabriel Mountains. The area received almost constant rain totaling 4.4 in (110 mm) from February 27-March 1. This caused minor flooding that affected only a few buildings in isolated canyons and some low-lying areas along rivers.[2]
    Fifteen hours later on March 1, at approximately 8:45 PM, a second storm hit the area, creating gale-force winds along the coast and pouring down even more rain. The storm brought rainfall totals to 10 in (250 mm) in the lowlands and upwards of 32 in (810 mm) in the mountains.[3] When the storm ended on March 3, the resulting damage was huge.[2]”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Angeles_flood_of_1938
    ^^^That’s worth a look. Some nice pictures of what the aftermath of a REAL storm was like in LA back before they realized just how much rain we sometimes got…
    32″ of rain in the mountains! That’s a lot of rain. Took out a lot of fancy houses and infrastructure that were built along the usually “dry” Arroyo Seco.
    It’s great that our system now holds up under these periodic severe rain events but we need to redo some of that over engineered cement culvert that used to be a river.

  11. p.s. Do I need to point out what the story would be if that storm from 1938 hit today? Unprecedented extreme weather event & climate change?

  12. I propose that all news people, and weather persons, in Southern California be prohibited from using the words “deluge” or “torrential” unless they can provide a certificate that they spent at least three days in monsoonal rain storms.
    As to capturing the runoff, about 15 years ago, the Army Corps of Engineers did a significant amount of work on the Santa Ana River in Orange County to slow the flow and allow the water to percolate down into the aquifer. I suspect that the same could be done in other parts of SoCal.

    • @Newly
      That is a great suggestion. ‘Torrential’ has a relative meaning. 1.2 inches?? Good grief.
      I was living in Mbabane, Swaziland in 1977 and we have 8″ of rain in 8 days. The water was 4′ over the bridges. In 1983 we had a metre of rain in a day over the whole country. The damage was incredible.
      For Calif, I suggest the capturing of runoff. It is the cheapest and longest lasting investment in creating storage and recreation.

  13. GOES to show that one never knows what the next season has in store for you, like the Arctic ice cover for example. One had better not extrapolate from current conditions.

    • Well climatologist,
      Would you care to make any predictions of minimum Arctic ice extent say, 10 years hence?

      • I ran my models on a super computer for 2-3 milliseconds. The fact of the matter is: minimum Arctic ice extent will return to normal. Now, the the $100k prize, define normal!!!

  14. Paul Jackson – spell checker is your friend.
    Look, blaming people who used to live in California for the changing local or state politics is tiresome. People move around, always have, always will.
    I moved to California in 1962. I was eight years old, I didn’t have a say in it. I’m sixty now and about to retire. I will likely move out of state. Tough.

  15. An inch in one day! we call that sort of rainfall “fairy mist” in Sydney. On Wednesday a storm dumped more than 2 inches in less than one hour here. A week or so ago a storm in Brisbane dropped more than 4 inches in an hour.

  16. Of course they aren’t associating this event to CAGW, but just wait until the rain becomes too much. Then it will be more “proof” of CAGW.

  17. Very interesting:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Flood_of_1862
    The Great Flood of 1862 was the largest flood in the recorded history of Oregon, Nevada, and California, occurring from December 1861 to January 1862. It was preceded by weeks of continuous rains (or snows in the very high elevations) that began in Oregon in November 1861 and continued into January 1862.
    See also – ARkStorm

  18. No story here, wait till the typhoon hits the Philippines, if its a catagory1 or higher, its being caused by GW and it will be all over the news.

  19. One of the dire predictions for the storms was catastrophic mudflows, which actually have been modest so far. Some believe that CO2-enrichment of the atmosphere has resulted in more robust root systems and consequent retarding of slope failure. It will be interesting to see how that pans out.

  20. The weatherman on a local, Sacramento radio station called it “The storm of the century of the year’, I think to emphasize the hyperbole generally used in describing such events as this.

  21. It may not be an official El Niño but it sure feels like an El Niño here in northern California. Storm after storm with few breaks in between and all of them very warm. The wet season has just barely begun.

  22. Its certainly been a very interesting year in terms of the Pacific SST. With the strange eastern pacific blob which likely played a part in this event and light El Nino like temperatures without the corresponding El Nino wind bursts. IMO something has changed in the Pacific and its so very interesting to see this new behaviour emerge with the modern measurement methods. Time to look away from the models and learn as much as we can.

  23. Its because we have been cold (10 degrees below normal) dry and sunny for weeks, lots of lovely high pressure over BC. Unfortunately we’re back to Pacific weather, so we are taking our rain back. Sorry California. Are the reservoirs full yet?

    • Nope, according to the California DWR the reservoirs are at 49.72% of historical average as of midnight 12/4/14. Those of you in BC will need some additional sunny weather this winter to help out California.

  24. Meanwhile, from the Ministry of Endless Catastrophist Spin ….
    “Woooorrrrrrrrrrst drrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrought innnnnnnnnnn 120o yearrrrrrrrrrrrrrs!”

  25. I heard some reports of 8 inches of rain in S. CA over those 3-4 days. Where can you find that information on precipitation measurements?
    No mater how much rain you get during a drought, “they” always say it’s not a drought buster. I guess it all just goes back into the ocean.

    • It’s actually not a drought buster because we rely so much on storage. For storage (both above and below ground) to be restored to a normal level we’d need north of 200% normal precip this season. Or, several normal to slightly above normal seasons in a row. However, my point remains, regarding the exaggerated claim of the drought severity.

    • My parents in Santa Cruz tell me, almost every time we talk, how nicely it is raining but “it’s only a drop in the bucket with this terrible drought we have.” sigh.

  26. Their typical meteo analysis is neglecting high pressure anticyclones…
    1) advection of moist air on the back of a continental MPH of 1041 hPa centered on SE USA Dec. 2
    2) advection of moist air on the front of a Pacific MPH of 1031 hPa centered on Hawaii and descending fast southward from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2

  27. Therefore it is the strength of high pressure systems descending from the poles -i.e. colder air masses- that penetrated deeper southward and thus advected all this moist air on their edges. If anything the repetition of such events would be in dire contradiction with the idea that a global warming is taking place.

  28. well, according to my trusty redneck rain gauge, we got 3″ here in my part of The Valley.
    not the earth ending flood they threatened in the news, nor even close to a record for our yard, but a respectable bit of irrigation. off hand i’d say it was as much, maybe more, than what we got all last year.
    but until i see more storms, and more rain, i’m unconvinced the drought is over.

  29. they always make a big deal about the how oh the whole California is going to shrivel up and die now there drowning in Heavy rain that just will not stop. Central valley is getting pounded as well. San Francisco lets not even go the there. Flash floods in the winter! Thunderstorm in that place!? Could this be the same event that happened in 1997?? when Cheyenne my girl was born this could be why she is so beautiful. Even Las Vegas, NV is been so humid and Foggy humidity struggles to get under 30% usually the humidity is at 50% at night. This is globle warming. Fog in Las Vegas, NV is extremely (was) extremely rare. Non warm lively and muggy version of Monsoon season just swinging from the Northwest.

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