California's train of super-soaker storms analysed – more on the way

Extreme rain events fueled by the current strong El Nino have started to affect California. NASA estimated rainfall over a period of 7 days while NASA/NOAA’s GOES Project created a satellite animation showing the storms affecting the region over the period of Jan. 5 through Jan 7.

An animation NOAA’s GOES-West satellite imagery from Jan. 5 through Jan 7 shows the progression of storm systems in the Eastern Pacific Ocean that hit southern California and generated flooding and mudslides. The animation was created at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

This animation NOAA’s GOES-West satellite imagery from Jan. 5 through Jan 7 shows the progression of storm systems in the Eastern Pacific Ocean that hit southern California and generated flooding and mudslides. TRT: 00:42 Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project

An estimate of rainfall totals from December 31, 2015 to the morning (EST) on January 6, 2016 was made using data from NASA’s Integrated Multi-satellitE Retrievals for GPM (IMERG) for a series of storms moving over the Eastern Pacific toward the U.S. West coast. Global precipitation estimates are provided by IMERG through the use of data from satellites in the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission constellation and is calibrated with measurements from the GPM Core Observatory as well as rain gauge networks around the world. GPM is a satellite managed by both NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.


An estimate of rainfall totals from Dec. 31, 2015 to Jan. 6, 2016 was made using data from NASA’s IMERG for a series of storms showed highest rainfall totals over the eastern Pacific Ocean (purple) more than 4.5 inches (114.3 mm) and highest totals near Lake Tahoe and the west central Nevada border (red) over 4 inches (101.6 mm). Credits: NASA/JAXA/SSAI, Hal Pierce

The IMERG data showed highest rainfall totals over the eastern Pacific Ocean of more than 4.5 inches (114.3 mm) and highest totals over land near Lake Tahoe and the west central Nevada border at more than 4 inches (101.6 mm).

The Integrated Multi-satellitE Retrievals for GPM (IMERG) creates a merged precipitation product from the GPM constellation of satellites. These satellites include DMSPs from the U.S. Department of Defense, GCOM-W from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Megha-Tropiques from the Centre National D’etudies Spatiales (CNES) and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), NOAA series from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Suomi-NPP from NOAA-NASA, and MetOps from the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT).  All of the instruments (radiometers) onboard the constellation partners are intercalibrated with information from the GPM Core Observatory’s GPM Microwave Imager (GMI) and Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR).

The precipitation shown in the IMERG product along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains is providing snowfall that is crucial to alleviating the drought driven low water reserves in California.

On Jan. 8, NWS Weather Prediction Center in College Park Md. noted that the upper-level low pressure area is forecast to move across the Four Corners region, bringing snow to the higher terrain of the Southwest and to portions of the southern and central Rockies. Portions of the Mogollon Rim as well as the Rockies in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico have the potential for heavy snow, with snowfall amounts of one foot possible at the highest elevations.

Another Pacific frontal system is approaching the West Coast to bring rain and high elevation snows to the West Coast states. For updated forecasts, visit the National Weather Service website at:


Here is the latest satellite image (as of this writing) showing the next system lined up for California, it is expected to hit on Tuesday night:


To animate the image, click here

74 thoughts on “California's train of super-soaker storms analysed – more on the way

  1. My Santa Barbara friends are delighted. Will the msm report the breaking of the 4 year California drought – entirely due to global warming, of course.

    • This rainfall, and possibly the rainfall through this entire El Nino weather event, may “break” the drought, but we will probably still be short of water – the results of very poor water management throughout the state for the last 40 – 50 years. We got a fair amount of rain down here on the coastal plain last week, but it all ran off into the ocean – no provisions for storage.

    • By law (since 2007) 40% of our water is flushed down rivers in hopes of luring salmon to California rivers. As long as that is in effect, water will be at a premium in here..The EPA helps maintain our drought situation.

      • Which salmon and which rivers are you talking about? I am not saying that the California legislature may not have past so stupid laws.
        I am saying that southern California is where the water shortage is and that is because there are too many people. I have not lived in California for 20 years but I suspect things do not change/

      • @ Kit P…agricultural needs use around 80% of the total yearly usage, and there are over 38 million residents. It is easy to see that if agriculture would be able to reduce their usage by upgrading their watering systems, then there would easily be plenty of water for the population.

      • @Kit P:
        40% of all water is flushed down rivers to promote fish migration. Of that which is left, 80% is for agriculture. The stats you always see reported are after fish migration flushing.

    • Your Santa Barbara friends must have their own private weather. We’ve had very little rain. More perhaps than during the height of the draught, but not even close to a level to saturate the ground and fill Lake Cachuma. Great that the Sierras are getting snow pack. The State water project desperately needs it. If only the actual weather lived up to the dire warnings. I think folks around here have long since forgotten what real, sustained, heavy rain looks like.

      • Here in San Mateo County we barely got enough to kick off run off and aquifer recharge. I routinely observe several French Drain outfalls and not a one got into “spring” mode even during the recent “big week.” We have a long way to go. And now the storm door if not shutting is definitely no longer wide open. The fronts are weaker now and are cutting off at about 36N.

  2. I do not understand why any of this is called “extreme”, when it is really very much within historic patterns.

    • I’m not complaining. I’ve been skiing powder all season and more is on the way starting Wed.
      For those who think this is extreme, I’ve lived in Ca for decades and normal is bouncing between extremes of drought and flood. Comparing ski seasons, this year is a little better than average, but no where near 2010/2011. As far as El Nino’s go, this one seems to be producing smaller, colder storms than other recent events.

    • I agree. I grew up here in California and it seems pretty normal to me. If I were to point to any specific “change” I have seen in the weather since the 1950s, it wold be that I see less fog and not as thick fog in the Central Valley these days. That effect seems to be limited to the cities though, so I think it falls under a UHI effects, if it is not simply due to residential moves or something else that really has more to do with the observer than the observed.

      • I’m from southern California since 1967. the biggest change I’ve seen is the appearance of mountains surrounding the LA basin in the late 80’s. I’d gone to Wash D.C. for six years, where i met and married my wife. I tried to dampen her enthusiasm for Orange County by telling her it was all gray below (concrete) and brown above (smog). imagine my surprise when we got off the plane and could see mountains from LA international. I assured her it would only last three days, then return to normal. It didn’t. Unless there is a chance of rain, I see the mountains everyday. For a pilot who learned to fly here, i find that incredible. Above a thousand feet, i almost always had to use instruments to navigate here.
        Now, it is incredibly beautiful. The EPA did do something right… 30 years ago.

    • David, The trouble with you is that you are honest.
      We can always … always … expect a Robust response to the Extreme weather events that are associated with today’s Changing Climate.
      (Robust = hyped-up)
      (Extreme = stuff that happened a few years ago and that will also happen again next year)
      (Climate = whatever I want it to mean depending my own personal frame of reference)

    • Uggh. Extreme? Why would you grease the conmularmist’s way by adopting their rhetoric?
      Not just that. The four year drought. – The heck I say. That “drought” was made up of two or three years of 16 or 17 inches instead or the average 18. If it weren’t for 55 plus years of Democrat mismanagement, and dereliction of office, California wouldn’t notice two or three years of slightly below, but not unusual, rainfall totals.
      It’s the old story. If you put democrats in charge of the desert we’d be having shortages of sand in three months.
      No matter how much rain California gets it will never be enough to cover Democrat incompetence, or heaven forbid it were a gush so wide and relentless to sate the thirst of all the crooks, frauds, and phonies, in Sacramento, they would turn on a dime to point and say “extreme weather”. Proof of global warmin to the eleventty!!!111!!.
      You’re helping them spread the lie when you adopt their language.

  3. I thought rain was only going to fall where it wasn’t needed. I always had trouble with rain “knowing” where it is not needed due to it’s obviously low I.Q. This is probably of the even dumber precipitation variation. GK

  4. I was surprised that after all the rains of last week that the reservoir levels across CA only went up by 1-2%

  5. Strange, my little town of Poway, CA, near San Diego got 6 inches of rain last week over the period mentioned, and yet the image of rain totals with 4.5″ being considered highest, shows only light rain over the area. At Mt Woodson, a small mountain near Poway Lake and potato chip rock, they got 7.5″ of rain.
    So now I find the data in this article dubious.

    • Radar-estimated rainfall is often not accurate. Type of rain, terrain, radar shadows, blind-spots, etc. I’m sure a more accurate appraisal would come out eventually from more reliable rain gauges.

    • Last July, Southern California had record rains. In a month that only averages about 0.01″, our city received >2″. Where I work, I can see the rain and runoff and it was spectacular.
      About 6 weeks later, the water district reported total rain received in our city over the past 90 days at 0.08″. This kept the drought funds flowing.

  6. Doesn’t anyone remember the dire predictions for Texas a few years ago? “Drought to the end of the century,” “…Reprise of the Dust Bowl of the 30’s, but worse.”
    All, of course, tagged to “Runaway Global Warming.”
    This year, not one county in Texas is in drought condition. CA will “weather” this too, and the operative word is “weather” not climate!

    • SE Texas had over 6 feet of rain this past year – about one foot in excess of normal. That included 11 inches one day last Spring and 9 inches one day last Fall. I have to chuckle reading about the news reporting torrential floods in California with substantially less than 9 inches over a couple days.

      • Patrick B commented: “…. I have to chuckle reading about the news reporting torrential floods in California with substantially less than 9 inches over a couple days…..”
        You have to understand the mindset. We’ve had “storm watches” but NO rain actually fell. A ‘flood’ to someone in SoCal is a stopped up storm drain or a poorly excavated roadway. Real floods like flash floods over sparsely populated desert are rare but usually cause little to no damage. Not to say that an overloaded drainage system cannot cause damage or death but they can be avoided if tended properly. Here just about any standing water is referred to as a ‘flood’. People forget that SoCal is an artificially irrigated desert.

    • Be patient, the green fraidies aren’t out of bed yet. It’s quiet down in Mum’s basement.

  7. Satellites are very useful. Well, er, except for measuring infrared radiation from oxygen. If it’s radiation from ozone, then perfect!

  8. Great start.
    California needs rain through winter to fill up things.
    ” For example, on December 23rd, the height allowed on Shasta Lake is 1018.5 feet, nearly 50 feet below our capacity to allow for future rainfall and upstream water releases from other reservoirs…
    Water level is allowed to rise to 1037 feet by March 20th, allowing only another 20 feet of water. The potential for flooding downstream for other areas is the reason for conservative water releases (dumping water).
    Too much water too early in the season and poor rainfall later can keep the lake level down. Larry Ball explains, “If we have a wet December and a wet January, but a dry February, March and April, we are going to have a hard time filling the reservoir.” He continued, “We can have good years in terms of inflow, but if we have to dump a bunch of it, it can result in not as good of storage as some years.”

    • And the point is they “dump” the excess before they know it is an excess. Grew up in California and watched the reservoirs be emptied many a time before the rain actually fell. If mother nature didn’t cooperate the lake was “below capacity” for that year not because it couldn’t have been at capacity for the summer but because the “best guess” of the water managers was wrong.

  9. In December of 1955 a storm (called ‘Mariah’) inundated California with up to 390 mm of rain (Dec 20 in Shasta County). The flooding affected most of the state. It will be interesting to see if that mark holds or falls.

    • The flood of 1955/56 was a big storm from mid California all the way into southern Canada. The one prior to that was in 1946/47. The biggest of the group was the flood of 1964/65. I would bet on the chance of next winter being a flood event on the PNW. The last Big One was 1996/97 for Northern California and further north.

      • goldminor…my family lost our car crossing a bridge on the Uvas Creek (a tributary of the Salinas River) during the 55/56 flood. It was catastrophic: all the Christmas presents were lost! Of course it did make an important memory/life lesson out of the quite unalarmed strength of my father as he carried me through the rushing water to safety.

  10. The Greens will be so disappointed in this good news story. They would prefer the drought to continue just so they could say “I told you so”. Headlines of “Worst drought in 1200 years” sounded so much better.

  11. I remember that one! Water level almost reached our house in Rio Linda, 10 miles north of Sacramento. Almost to the R/R tracks atop the levee where the Arco Arena is now. Flooded all the way back to Yuba City and Marysville…pg

  12. Perhaps it is time to drop the over frequent use of “extreme”. Heavy rains from an El Nino event have been going on as long as there have been El Nino’s. These events are typical of drought ending weather events.
    Allowing the climate obsessed to control the language of weather only plays into their alarmist, inaccurate, non-rational perspective.

      • I would start editing. Add ” “, add strike throughs, etc. The world is not undergoing extreme climate change. It is time to end the charade.

      • Thanks for the correct correction, because I saw no quote marks.
        California’s train of super-soaker storms analysed – more on the way
        Anthony Watts / 7 hours ago January 11, 2016
        Extreme rain events fueled by the current strong El Nino have started to affect California. NASA estimated rainfall over a period of 7 days while NASA/NOAA’s GOES Project created a satellite animation showing the storms affecting the region over the period of Jan. 5 through Jan 7.
        It helps to know it was a link to an article. I thought our kind host caught a virus.

  13. The use of “extreme” is a strategic move on the enviro warmists. It negates the value of normal events or even the normal variation. The move redefines phenomena by their outliers. Since outliers are less numerous, the statistical significance of any extreme event is less scientifically worthy but is more NEWSworthy in that it is dramatic, short-lived and, generally, unexpected (in the short-term).
    Defining the principal character of a phenomenon by its outliers is a reversal of the scientific method of understanding phenomena. While the outliers may be of a particular nature and peculiar to some object of study, it is the average/mode/mean that characterize and lead to understanding. You learn nothing about rainfall in an area, for example, if all you study are the floods or droughts (if either are regular events they are “monsoon areas” or “deserts”).
    The use of extreme event reporting is not designed to elucidate, it is designed to alarm. Scientific argument about the significance of high impact events is counter-productive, as it makes the argues seem unsympathetic, even anti-human, rather than rational. Another brilliant move by the Eco-green Warriors.

    • Southern California is mainly ‘desert’. Years of little rain are common. Many, many people who have come there this century come from wetter places. They love the ‘sun’ there! And then whine when it is warm and dry!!! This includes Mr. Gore.

    • Not just Cali – Confederate Army scouts quite seriously reported that they had seen the Pacific Ocean.
      They could not have been much more than 30 or 40 miles past Tucson, Arizona, as the Confederates were stopped at the battle of Picacho Peak.
      Best guess is that they were seeing the very broad flood plain of the Gila River, which when viewed by someone from a well-watered region can normally be called a “stream” (if you feel charitable). A mega-flood, though, and water can extend beyond the horizon.

  14. So California gets Federal money for droughts and floods and a bonus wad for citing Antarctic ice calving and threat of sea level rise. I guess we should feel fortunate that it only cost us $9 billion for Jerry’s attendance at the bad science presentation at AGU.

  15. “Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project” It’s amazing how useful NASA and NOAA can be when they are not engaged in political agenda ing……

  16. Water, like climate, is political in California. Our governor is spending more time and money saving the world from AGW than he is providing us water.

  17. “It’s the old story. If you put democrats in charge of the desert we’d be having shortages of sand in three months.”
    Papertiger… OK this is one of the funniest quotes I have seen in a looong time… made me LOL!
    Thanks Anthony for making this site one with something for everyone.

    • I’m a lifelong Democrat who hasn’t been able to find a single Democrat nominee to vote for, since the leftwing Socialists of whatever stripe, ( Nazi, Bolshevik, Maoist, PolPotist, etc, etc), have seized control of the party nomination process, and offer nothing else to real American democrats to vote for, but one of their own fools and knaves. Now they are actually offering a true blue Communist in the knave from Vermont, and no one is laughing him down.
      I guffawed at that desert/sand statement, as it so, so true of the idiots controlling my Party right now.

      • Stas peterson:
        I see you are yet another ultra-right concern troll pretending to be left wing.
        Only members of the extreme right attempt to claim the political spectrum has Naz1s as “leftwing Socialists” instead of Naz1s being part of the extreme right which they were and are.

      • RC: Justify how these two ideologies belong on opposite sides of any political spectrum:
        1) Full state control of all economic and social factors, permitting some private ownership of the means of production.
        2) Full state control of all economic and social factors, with state ownership of the means of production.

  18. Can’t hurt, but the need to build more dams will still be there even if we get a temporary reprieve from noticing it.

  19. Hollywood is the reason we are interested in California weather.
    Our son works in local TV news and is always griping that over dramatized news stories from California would get national attention and not the news stories he sent to networks. The irony is that movies were made in Hollywood because of the mild California weather.
    I took a class called environmental geology. The premise is that the study of geology can prevent human disaster by taking into account floods, fires, volcanoes, ect. When people say it has never happened, what they should be saying is that it has not happened yet.
    I had a neighbor California who was telling me how is house was built using the same seismic design program as nuke plants. I pointed to the hill behind his house and asked if his house was designed to withstand a mud slide.
    My point is that you have to mitigate risk based on a rational approach not drama. My neighborhood in California had a low risk of earth quakes but was prone to wild fires and subsequent mudslides after winter rains.
    As far as the risk of climate change, that is also more drama. Could the climate change in a 100 years to increase the risk of wildfires and mudslides. Well sure but the practical measures to mitigate the risk remain the same.

  20. As I understand the theory concerning solar minimums, a weakening of the electromagnetic field of the sun allows cosmic rays to penetrate further into the Earth’s atmosphere. This is supposed to result in an increase in clouds and precipitation that eventually have a cooling effect upon the Earth’s surface. If that is so, how are the effects of a reduction in solar electromagnetic energy separated out from the effects of an El Nino event?
    It seems as if the El Nino and La Nina events have sort of taken over in the imaginations of people who post here, and the solar minimum isn’t referenced much these days even though it appears to be continuing. Shouldn’t increased cold, rain and snow still be expected for the foreseeable future? Just saying.

    • I think that the combination of a strong La Nina intersecting with the solar changes during a gm event is where we will see the full effects of what a gm can do. That time should be close at hand by my reckoning. I think the ENSO regions could return to neutral by the end of next month.

  21. Just to show that Nino is a bit of a skep and fails to read all the literature every year, Eastern Australia has been pretty damp, with handy rains over drought areas and the odd flood.
    Mind you, after all the fire and heat from sister Nina back in 1939, I’d say the whole ENSO family is a bit careless with the data and the literature. Sometimes they follow the script, other times…

  22. Here in Australia, climate hysteria(along with a complicit socialist regime) resulted in an expensive white elephant desalination plant for Sydney which has never been used. It cost $500,000 per day to maintain. A lot of money to flush down the toilet for nothing.

  23. Huge false alarm here. One good week but sort of one and done, and now the fronts are mainly weak ones that don’t make it past Monterey County.

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