OOPS. I was listening to a Southwest CLIMAS podcast, originating at the U of AZ, and realized I missed in the above graph what can only be termed an “ineffectual Niño” that which occurred in 1986-88 and did not produce a precipitation “signal” here. How lame was that?
So, while we are excited about the prospects of extra rain this winter due to the current, supersized El Niño, like all things weather, some doubt must be in place.
Rather than hiding the omission of the “ineffectual El Niño” period, I am inserting the corrected water year history plot here with slightly revised annotation so you can compare them both.
These data are mostly from Our Garden, 1977-78 through 2011-12, located at Columbus and Stallion. The data after that are from Sutherland Heights, Catalina, some 2 mi or so to the SE of that site, and about 300 feet higher in elevation. So there is a bit of what we would call a “heterogeneity” in the data.
The downward trend is misleading, since the Our Garden record began with extremely wet water years, due to a combination of a shift in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation that occurred in 1977-78 (a shift that squelched the then record West Coast drought) and a Niño or two.
That kind of downward trend shown for Catalina in cool season precip does not show up in the Statewide averages for the whole year, anyway, shown below.
Those annual data show the usual oscillations between drier and wetter epochs in Arizona. In the plot below, you can see that had the Catalina record started in 1950 or so, there would likely be little in the way of a trend since so many of those years were drier than average. You can also see the effect of the PDO change in the late 1970s where year after year was above for the State of Arizona as a whole.
The weather ahead
Rain, tropical skywater, still appears headed our way around the 4-6th of October.
Might was well, since no rain will fall here through the end of September (ugh). Here it is:
But lets look at a wider set of data to see what’s going on with the whole State of Arizona precip, through 2014, anyway. The plot below is the ANNUAL statewide average, January through December, the worst possible way to display 12 mos. of precip data. This is because it slices the cool season (October through May) in half, and whole cool seasons in particular can be impacted La Niñas and El Niños that usually only last one cool season. So those kinds of effects are muted in the presentation of annual averages in the plot below (from NOAA NCDC). Sure wish they would issue water year averages (October through September) or even the West Coast, July through June annual average; both of the latter two methods capture El Niños and La Niñas well.
These shots below from hikes/horsey rides on Friday and yesterday, FYI. Seemed a little greener than usual for this time of year probably due to those September and early October rains. I think you should hike or ride a horse/bike out there in the Catalina Mountains before the rains hit. Yeah, that’s right; its gonna rain in November1.
1Assertion subject to error. But check THIS out, from last evening’s run at 11 PM AST which I just now saw at 7:46 AM:
While waiting for measurable rain to begin piling up in November, let’s look at no rain so far for the current water year which began October 1st:
In fact, speaking of piling up, here’s some rain in this forecast from the Canadian GEM model already for the night of November 4th-5th, and, of course, windy on the 4th before the cold front with this barges in. And, I am happy to report that the USA WRF-GFS model is ALSO showing rain during this time, after being rather reluctant until the run from last night at 11 PM AST, seen here. This is lookin’ good now for our first measurable rain in over a month.
But wait, there’s more!
Amajor precip episode has shown up in the 11 PM AST WRF-GRS run from last evening! Check out these renderings from that model run from a site I like, IPS MeteoStar:
In the past we have seen numerous examples of “fantasy rain” produced for us here, often involving decaying tropical storms, that turned out to be completely bogus in this time range, that beyond 8-9 days. Its pretty normal for goofy things to show up in these models beyond that time. Just too much chaos going on and using measurements with their inevitable errors, even if fairly slight ones, not to mention that we don’t really have all the answers to how the atmosphere works.
So, what do we do? We deliberately input errors into a few model runs at the very beginning and see what happens, how crazy the key contours and isobars get. “Pretty cool, huh?”, as Bill Nye the science guy might say if he were writing this. Where they remain pretty steady, that’s where a prediction, even one ten or more days out, is going to be very reliable. Here’s is a sample of one of those crazy results from NOAA:
The plot above indicates that there is a very strong signal for a big trough and storms along the West Coast 10 days out. The red lines show that there is a strong signal for the jet stream from the subtropics to be a bit south of us.
The main point here is to point out that while the DAY OF THE RAIN on those forecast maps might change in the models, there are still going to be a number of days where troughs and fronts threaten to bring rain yo Catalina over the next two weeks, and one’s likely to make it as a rainy one.
Thinking now, having a rain bias (“truth-in-packaging” note here), that November’s rain will be near or above normal.
Look for a few Cirrus and maybe Altocumulus to appear late in the day with the likelihood of a nice sunset shot.
Here are the updated plots from the Our Garden location on Stallion where a continuous record has been maintained since way back in 1977 when the Sex Pistols, led by Johnny Rotten, were beginning to alter the face of pop music and pop culture and trigger an alternative music and fashion scene called “Punk.” Let’s see what John Lyden (aka, Johnny Rotten) had to say some years later after the SP years…
Below are the water year data for 2012-2013 ONLY from the Our Garden site, not a mixture of obs from MY gauge and theirs (which could cause “heterogeneities”, as I have posted before. Not much difference, really, between our sites, but it makes for a cleaner dataset, a “homogeneous” one. Thanks to the folks at Our Garden, Jesse, Wayne and Jenny, for letting me update their precious data into a spreadsheet lately. State climo wants it, too.
One difference that stood out this year was that Our Garden was clobbered by a few summer storms that we didn’t get and their water year total is 2 inches more than here (11.08 inches) in Sutherland Heights/Catalina, just a couple miles away.
So, here are the “homogeneous” data back to 1977 FYI:
I don’t place too much credence in a continuation of a downward trend, lately obdfuscated some by juicy summer rains. These kinds of things, even assuming some slight GW influence, usually reverse themselves rather suddenly with a burst of wetter years such as we see at the beginning of the Our Garden record in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Some of that was fueled to some degree by El Ninos, sometimes called “Eel Nino” due to its monstrous effects on Cal coast and the SW in general. Here’s what “Eel Nino” looks like when it occurs:
Yesterday, in a ploy to get some rain, I “dared” it to rain on the water year data I presented for Catalina. I didn’t think it would, to be honest, and also wanted a data “scoop” over other presenters of data who might be too shy to present data prematurely. Remember, the rubric here is, “Right or wrong, you heard it here first!”
Yesterday, the water year total I presented has ended up being slightly wrong.
Our new Catalina water year total is 10.91 inches after a hard, few minute rain just after 8:30 PM. Mountains to the east were obscured, too, in a whitish haze so quite a little Cumulonimbus cloud emerged from that evening cloud deck, so rain-free for so many hours.
All in all, it was a dramatic day yesterday since the U of AZ rendering of the GTS-WRF had showers developing quickly in the middle of the afternoon and it was SO CLEAR, the sky SO BLUE for so long (a deep blue sky suggests dry conditions aloft), and I wondered if I hadn’t seen an obsolete model run (while out tramping around on a horse yesterday morning)1.
Finally, just before 11 AM some Cumulus started to form on the Catalinas, but more on the north sides. But then clouds slowly started to form everywhere and they gradually filled as the day went on, but were precip-free. Cloud tops remained too warm to form ice, which as you know is the -10 C level (with some exceptions; very warm cloud bases, or, very cold ones).
So, while the sky was very pretty, thank you, there was no virga, or showers visible, at least until very late in the afternoon after I had pretty much given up on seeing precip or ice, though came out to look every 8 minutes to make sure I didn’t miss any surprises. Diligence was to be rewarded; yours, too, I hope. I might also note that the U of AZ Beowulf Cluster run from 5 AM AST, available by mid-morning, also saw that the inversion capping cloud tops was going to be eliminated by 5 PM yesterday; this as a major trough in the westerlies cruises into Arizona from California today. It was just about as perfect a forecast as you can get, since it was just after that time, that cloud tops were able to sprout that bit higher and form ice, and an icy top appeared east of the Catalinas, and showers and virga appeared off toward the N.
Bye-bye, tropical air and summer-like clouds by later today (dry westerlies blasting in behind cool front). I will miss you terribly, summer clouds, but will have to wait until next June or July to see you again. Boo-hoo. Will be a very pretty day, but, rain not likely with front.
Add to text box, lower left, the words: “….unless you’re quite young.”
Looked like there was a leveling off during the past 15 years, along with the “puzzling 15-year hiatus1” in global warming, coincidentally, so I used a “poly” fit instead of a linear one that would reflect the “stabilization” of water year rainfall in these latter years. Those early wet years in our record are now associated with a big change in the positions where the lows and highs like to be in the Pacific, one that comes around every few decades called the “Pacific Decadal Oscillation” (PDO). The change to a new regime occurred in 1977-78, just when the Catalina rainfall records started at Our Garden down on Stallion where you should buy some stuff. There was also a gigantic El Nino in 1982-83 that contributed to that early wetness. Remember all the flooding in September and October of 1983?
You may notice that I have posted this some ten days before the end of the water year. I dare it to rain on this year’s data! (And I hope it does, given our meager total.)
Many more and thunderstorms much closer than expected from this keyboard (heard thunder just after 12 Noon!) Here’s our day in pictures:
Today…. Dewpoints are up from yesterday over much of southern Arizona, and mods suggest a similar day to yesterday, scattered to broken Cumulus clouds with an isolated Cumulonimbus, with more coverage in rain than yesterday. Whoopee! Rain is actually predicted here! How fantastic would that be? And I would have to update my opening just graph just that bit, an enjoyable task, really.
Mods are also indicating that some rain may leak into tomorrow as our first tentative cool season-style trough and front pass by. We’ll see. In any event, should be a pretty day today and tomorrow. Try not to be inside the WHOLE day watching football!
Can there be any rain before the official end of the month, measurable rain that might improve our dismal 10.83 inches, droughty total?
Not if you believe our own WRF-GFS model run from last night, but, “yes” if you like Canada and the Canadian GEM model. It has some rain in the area for us on Sunday the 22nd. Here it is:
In the meantime, our own model run has the moist plume WAY to the east at that same time, and so no rain here. Here is that map from the WRF-GFS , as rendered by IPS Meteostar, for moisture around 10,000 feet ASL. The blue moist plume in the Canadian model above (get microscope out) is the same as the green one below, except that the green moist plume is shoved off to the east and south. Dang.
Saw some clouds in the moonlight just now. Seems that drier air can’t quite get rid of our summer regime moist plume, one that even yesterday was close enough to us to have produced a thunderhead off toward Mt. Graham and vicinity to the NE. The chances are small we’ll get any more measurable rain, but as in sports, that moist plume seems to be hanging around, and you know that old sports saying that when heavily favored teams let underdogs “hang around”; don’t blow them out as expected, upsets can happen. Well, of course, that’s what I am hoping for, just that bit more rain to at least push us over the 11 inch mark. Its not a BIG hope, just 0.17 inches more before October 1st.
Running out of material, which is quite interesting because I haven’t been doing much, so am reprising these….
We had a little uptick in rainfall last year mostly due to that four and half inches in July. Very nice. No trend is evident in the summer rainfall here, global warming aside.
When it falls in summer….
Hmmm. Just noticed a discrepancy in the years of record. Huh. Must investigate later.
Some of yesterday’s clouds
One of my specialties is cloud bottoms, and there were several opportunities to photograph them. Here’s a quite nice one, hoping one day it might appear in a gallery, it’s that good I think. It was just starting to unload its watery burden onto the unsuspecting folks in south Catalina and Oro Valley (see next shot):
Models chock full of moist days for at least a week ahead, so “let the games begin”. Certainly we Catalinans will get nailed one of those days. Extreme SE AZ has been pretty wet so far, with Douglas having almost 2.5 inches already. Will be green down there soon! Might be worth a trip to see how things are coming along.
The End, except for this shot of the prior day’s really dramatic sunset:
Guest Statement/retrospective on March 2013 for Tucson by Mr. Mark Albright, a mostly temperature-centric climatologist specialist from the University of Washington:
“March 2013 was the 2nd warmest March in the past 65 years (1949-2013) at the Tucson Airport (KTUS) with an average temperature of 65.7 F which was +5.6 F above the 1981-2010 normal of 60.1 F. The only warmer March was 9 years ago in 2004 with a mean temperature of 66.6 F. By contrast, the coldest March occurred in 1973 with a mean temperature of only 51.6 F.
March 2013 precipitation totaled 0.01 inches at the Tucson Airport, the driest March since 1999 when ZERO precipitation was recorded in March. In the past 65 years ZERO precipitation has been observed in March 5 times: 1956, 1959, 1971, 1984, and 1999. March normal precipitation for the Tucson Airport is 0.73 inches.”
Mark may contribute more material in the future in the form of guest blogs when CM’s brain is fried.
How about them Altocumulus castellanus/floccus virgae clouds yesterday?
The wildflowers were better than expected along the trail, considering our once a month storm frequency for the past three months. Here are some for you. Can you name them?
Dry, windy, dusty blast coming on Monday, followed by air that’s too cold for April later that day into the middle of the week, but you knew that already. More on weather tomorrow.