Category Archives: Drought status

Western drought status: before and after the Big Niño erupted

“BN”, sometimes referred to in the media as the,  “Godzilla Niño” of 15-16.

Before, one year ago, the drought status as presented by the National Drought Monitor folks there in Cornhuskerland, Lincoln, NE:

First, a legend, no, not a story, though we could write one,  “The Legend of the Ghost Niño of 2015-16“,  but rather a guide to the colorful drought intensities on the maps below:

Drought intensity legend

One year ago


Western drought status as of April 7th, 2015.
Western drought status as of April 7th, 2015.

Now let us look closely below–you’ll have to–to see what the Big Niño has done to ameliorate drought so far THIS  water year (since Oct 1):

Western drought status as of April 5th, 2016!
Western drought status as of April 5th, 2016!

Of course, the giant low centers spinning around in the central Pacific sent a stream of large waves over and over again that blasted the Cal coast. That was expected, and verified. But not much else did. Drought should have increased in the Pac NW–recall it was forecast to be drier and warmer due to Niño conditions.  Instead, the Pac NW had record amounts of winter rain!

Cal, especially, central and southern were to be slammed. Southern Cal residents were advised to consider purchasing sandbags in one media story last fall.  And, of course, we here in AZ are profoundly disappointed; conditions have only improved some in the north part of the State.

Well, of course, there’s not one dry meteorological eye in the house after a bust of this magnitude.  And when our best models predicted giant West Coast storms that looked like the kind we were expecting due to the Niño, even though they were 10-15 days out, they seemed sure to happen.  CMP, bloated with confirmation bias,  was sucked in several times this past winter.

Sure, we knew that Niño correlations with weather are not 1.00, that is, perfect, still, the “signal”,  the size of the Niño, was so huge we figured it had to come through with those mighty storms striking the lower West Coast as happened in 1982-83 and 1997-98.    Those correlations, as strong as they were, of course, were limited in number since these large events are rare.  Those correlations will, let us say in place of cuss words,  “degrade.”

Oh, me, what will we say when the next Big Niño appears?

The weather ahead

You’re probably pretty excited about the wind and very cold air just ahead.  CMP is.  And, with the jet stream at 500 mb (18, 000 feet or so–5.5 km above sea level) eventually circumscribing us with its charateristic moist lower region of air, we should just enough moisture for some isolated very light showers, probably just in the Catalinas, during the period of low freezing levels that hits late Friday and continues through  Sunday.  Low freezing levels mean even moderate Cumulus clouds could form ice, leading to virga.

Amounts could, at the most,  only be a few hundredths here, and most likely we will be missed; precip just limited to snow flurries on Ms. Mt. Lemmon and thereabouts.  The U of AZ mod sees the cold blast arriving late Friday after dark.

On the other hand, Saturday and maybe Sunday as well,  will be good days for you to practice your ice in clouds detection skills in smallish Cumulus clouds.

The weather way ahead

Still looking to see at least two more troughs and chances of rain during the last two weeks of the month.  NOAA ensembles suggest so.  Best chances, 23rd-25th, and again around the 28th or so.

Some cloud shots from our little 0.01 inch rain day on Tuesday:

6:02 AM, Tuesday.
6:02 AM, Tuesday.  A summer-like scene, complete with thunder frames the post dawn hours.
10:35 AM. After the morning excitement cleared off, a pretty Cumulus congestus erupted north of Saddlebrooke town. There’s a hawk in the photo.
12:12 PM. That Cumulus congestus and its sisters, were able to reach the level of glaciation, and wind shear, send a plume of ice downstream toward the east, and rain below that overshooting turret.
2:36 PM. Pretty much the perfect cloud for ice in cloud studies. As the air warmed aloft and capped the Cumulus clouds, this one just poked up high enough to form some ice. It would have been a great sample to determine the temperatures and cloud conditions at which ice onset in clouds on Tuesday.
4:16 PM, Tuesday. Those shadow and sun highlights that make our mountains so darned pretty. I just never will be tired of these views!

The End


Miscellaneous stuff; also, regime change now in progress!

Haven’t had much weather/clouds to gab about; maybe I’ll help reader with some extra material today, not usually associated with a site about clouds; kind of go outside the lines a little.

Miscellaneous item 1

The Oracle Road report.  Thought you’d like to see that.

Yesterday afternoon report.
Yesterday afternoon’s report.  Seem to be some people working.  That’s good.  You can see some curbing going in, too.  Kind of reminds me of how high pressure has been “curbing” our storms lately, to introduce a weather theme.  Photo not taken while driving, of course.

Miscellaneous item 2

This.  Its quite good.  You’ll see people really liking it, too.  It may raise the question in your mind, “How many other people are “‘question marks'”?  Cloud Maven person?


Well, we had some nice Cirrus yesterday, and for the past few days.   Lots more to come, too, but that’s about it for awhile.

3:19 PM. Pretty CIrrus uncinus.
3:20 PM. If you on Mt. Everest this would quite a little passing snow shower of tiny crystals, quite fun, because it would only last a minute or so. Well maybe since the wind would be 100 mph, maybe it wouldn’t be THAT fun because the little crystals, likely bullet rosettes, as you would know, would sting your face if it wasn’t protected.

There’ll be a lot of Cirrus over the next two weeks, we hope with some rain underneath, with the best chance being

For yesterday afternoon, 5 PM AST.  The green areas represent moist conditions at Cirrus levels, here for about 300 mb or 30,000 feet.  Streamers of Cirrus are coming at us for awhile from the sub-tropics.
For yesterday afternoon, 5 PM AST. The green areas represent moist conditions at Cirrus levels, here for about 300 mb or 30,000 feet. Streamers of Cirrus are coming at us for awhile from the sub-tropics.  You can see a lot more green in this two week forecast from IPS MeteoStar.

Regime change?

Yep, mostly for Cal, though, as far as rain and snow go.  Folks in Cal are quite excited about the drought they’re having, but this April will put a damper on that excitement as the storms roar in from the Pac like they should have all winter.  It won’t end the drought, but it won’t be quite as dire, either.  You can read about direness here from the LA Times.  You’ll read that Governor Brown1 has declared a water emergency in California.  Of course, most of the water use is in sometimes inappropriate agricultural practices, like growing rice around Bakersfield in the San Joaquin desert, that kind of thing, not by home owners.

California can be very wet in April.   For example, in 1926, and in 1965, Los Angeles got over seven inches, and five inches, respectively.   So, “It ain’t over til its over”, the Cal rain season that is, as they say.  It  will be interest to look back as May arrives, and see how much the drought was alleviated.

You can see all the storm set to pound Cal here, plus our own chance around April 12-13th from this rendering of last evening’s global data.

How does Cloud Maven know for sure there is a regime change taking place that will help Cal? From a helping of spaghetti.  Lets look at spaghetti two weeks out, way more longer than weather models can be considered reliable.  Cloud Maven person was VERY excited when he saw this, as you will be as well!

Valid on April 17th, 5 PM AST.  Note how the red lines (contour number 576 dm) are squished in the Great SW, drooping southward into Mexico!  This is tremendous, since it virtually guarantees a trough in the SW.  The other plots are similar.
Valid on April 17th, 5 PM AST. Note how the red lines (contour number 576 dm) are squished in the Great SW, drooping southward into Mexico! This is tremendous, since it virtually guarantees a trough in the SW. The other plots are similar.  You just don;’t see this much in squished contours very often this far out in the model run in our area.  Usually these contours are like the ones off Africa.   I hope you know where Africa is….  Those blue lines (number 552 dm contours) are in the heart of the jet stream, really on the poleward side, and notice how some of them dip into the SW.  This is good, too.  Now, for California, olden studies have shown that its the contour BETWEEN these (564 decameters) that delineates where rain falls when a trough hits the Cal coast.  That contour is between the red and blue lines, and so there would be plenty of rain falling in Cal during these first two weeks, with no sign of let up here at the end of the model run.   SO, in conlcusion, that’s why CMP is sticking his neck out about a wet, drought-denting April in Cal.

What will our Catalina weather be like in April?

Under this new regime, whether it rains or not, you can expect windier conditions than normal during the month since storms exiting Cal will be close enough to excite not only meteorologists, but a “Tonopah Low” in the lee of the Sierras, something that helps generate wind here as they progress into the Great Basin after forming.

Wow, this is really too much detail for an entire month to come2!  Oh, well.  Remember our motto here at C-M:

“Right or wrong; you heard it here first!”

The End.


1Remember how we used to call him, “Governor Moonbeam” when he was governor of Cal the first time around in the 1970s due to his quirky,  ascetic lifestyle?  That was fun.  Lots of quirky people in the Haight-Asbury district then, too.  How many question marks were among those folks…and where are they now?

2We’ll be looking back at April come the beginning of May, by which time you will have forgotten anything that was written here, and I could almost anything.


A little rain overnight! 0.09 inches!

Let us first begin first by NOT exulting too much over our own rain, but let us revel in that rain that has fallen in the Plains.  New Mexico, too.  From WSI Intellicast this beauty for the past 7 days:

A radar-derived sum of the rain that has fallen in the past seven days over the USA.  Please observe the orangy areas in Kansas, indicating 8-12 inches!
A radar-derived sum of the rain that has fallen in the past seven days over the USA. Please observe the yellowish and orangy areas in Kansas, indicating  that between 8-16 inches has fallen!  Oh, my.  Let us remember, too, that July and August are supposed to be relatively dry months in these areas; the wetter times in May and June.

Below is our national drought status at the onset of the week above (for July 30, 2013), and indicates why so many of us should be thankful for this past weather week:

The national picture of drought as of July 30, 2013.
The national picture of drought as of July 30, 2013.  It will be updated later today.


Here are some area-wide 24 h totals, ending now,  from the Pima County Alert system.

Yesterday’s clouds

Well, they didn’t get so big, so soon over the Lemmon, as foretold by one model referred to yesterday, but there was something later in the afternoon near the top of Lemmon. Can you detect whether that the turret shown below is mostly “glaciated” or not? You know, that’s why I do this, to learn you up on clouds and when they got ice and therefore are precipitating out the bottom even though here you can’t see the bottom. It all for YOU. Its no problem for me, of course.

4:27 PM.  A Cumulus turret has protruded above the others behind Ms. Lemmon. If it glaciated, it might be better be termed the head of a Cumulonimbus calvus ("bald") and would have rain underneath it.
5:04 PM. A Cumulus turret has protruded above the others behind Ms. Lemmon. If it’s glaciated, it might be better be termed the head of a Cumulonimbus calvus (“bald”) and would have rain underneath it.  What do you think?  Only the C-M knows for sure.  Sounds like something from a radio program I’ve heard somewhere.  But, you should try anyway.  Answer at the bottom if I remember to put it there.
6:31 PM, Swan and Trotter, with metaphorical “Dead End” road sign, lower right.
While to the uninitiated this Cumulonimbus capillatus anvil may have appeared to be heralding a storm, overspreading the Catalina sky the way it was, the lack of cumuliform portions, the fraying edges, not hard ones, indicated it was in its dying phase.  Photo of anvil with metaphorical sign; yours for $2,000 (more than usual because some mental effort was expended).  Now that I am thinking about money, I think I will demand a million dollars to continue blogging, and see what happens.


2:47 PM. RIght here you knew that the model run that had an echo by 3 PM on Ms. Lemmon was going to be off as we see but a Cumulus mediocris forming after the usual mid-day clearing.


Nice sunrise this morning….

5:48 AM today.  Sunrise over the Charoleau Gap.
5:48 AM today. Sunrise over the Charoleau Gap.  Mulitple layers of Altocumulus, some fine virga.


Another morning of remnant rains moving through right now, rather than the full blast. As usual, these clouds and rain showers are likely to be dissipating in the later morning before doing much.

Looks like one last day of possible big showers here….check this out from the U of AZ, 11 PM run (WRF-GFS mod)..  Lets hope so, cuz its gonna be dry after this for a few days.

The End.

A little water running in the Sutherland Wash; remembering the CDO in 2010

With no rain in sight now, and its looking more and more like a third late winter and spring in a row with precip below normal (there’s only been one other “three in a row” in our 36 years of Catalina records), I thought would pay homage to the Great 2010 13 Day Run of the CDO at East Wilds Road (farther below).

In the meantime, yesterday I came across a nice gurgling creek, making the kind of gurgle that characterizes New Age relaxation CDs.  It was coming down the Big Rock Creek wash-tributary that empties into  the Sutherland Wash at the Cottonwoods, a local name given to an area of the Sutherland Wash were illicit beer parties often take place.  There was no water in the Sutherland above this point.

3:55 PM yesterday.
3:55 PM yesterday at Big Rock Creek by the Sutherland Wash cottonwoods.  Horse Jake forages.
2:54 PM. The Sutherland Wash downstream of the Big Rock Creek tributary.  Horse Jake;  his little mind wonders why I am taking another photo of not that much.


The Great CDO Run of 2010

I had forgotten that the Canada del Oro wash (river?) at East Wilds Road had run for as many as 13 consecutive days beginning on February 28th and likely ending three years ago today1.  Here are a few of those shots with the date.  That run, and the “Road Closed” sign on E. Wilds at the CDO began to feel like a permanent feature of life here in Catalina. You wondered if catfish were in there.    It was such a special time then.  And it had already run several times beginning after January 20th.

February 28, 2010.
February 28, 2010.
March 1, 2010.
March 3, 2010.
March 3, 2010.
March 4, 2010
March 8, 2010.
March 8, 2010.
March 9, 2010.
March 9, 2010.
March 10, 2010.
March 10, 2010.
March 11, 2010.
March 11, 2010.
March 12, 2010.
March 12, 2010.














What was surprising to Mr. Cloud Maven person, a cloud maven not a drought maven, was that after two consecutive bountiful months of rain and snow, the State of Arizona, and our local region of Arizona were still considered to be in drought, “abnormally dry”,  according to the Drought Monitor folks.   Here is there map for March 16, 2010.

The US Drought Monitor map for March 16, 2010.
The US Drought Monitor map for March 16, 2010.

At the end of March, and after three consecutive months of above normal rain and snow in our area (8.02 inches in Catalina, or nearly twice the normal amount), with one of the best wildflower displays in many, many years in progress, 200 inches of snow and one the best all time ski winters at Mount Lemmon, articles in the AZ Star about all the water that was flowing in the washes, we were STILL classified by the Drought Monitor folks as “abnormally dry” (see below).

I began to have the depressing thought that it was impossible to exit a drought classification after those three fabulous months.

The western US Drought Monitor map for April 6, 2010.  Go figure.
The western US Drought Monitor map for April 6, 2010. Go figure.

The End


1The Pima County stream gage at the bridge over the CDO wash at Golder Ranch Drive wasn’t working during that time (flow data here), and I don’t have photo evidence for two days, the 5th and 6th.  Dang.  Also, the run likely continued a little beyond the 12th, but don’t have photo evidence for the 13th, either.   Dang#2.

The trillion dollar storm

First, let’s catch up on drought…from who else but the Drought Monitor folks at Big Red (UNL).  They know best:

Jan 15 drought monitor drmonThe scoop

A storm from the Pacific passes slowly over Arizona on the 28th bringing  desperately needed,  soaking rains to almost all ag units, wildllife, desert vegetation, and us.  It then plods on across NM and into the Plains States doing the same, eventually exiting across the Ohio Valley, having drenched some of our most  drought-ridden regions between the 28th and 30th.  These beneficial rains across so much of our country might be worth a trillion in 2013 dollars1, hence,  the moniker, “The Trillion Dollar Storm.”

Here are a few IPS MeteoStar panels (I favor their depictions) from yesterday’s 5 AM AST model run because they’re a bit more spectacular than last evening’s 5 PM AST run (remember from spaghetti the storm on the 28th is in the bag for AZ, and that each model run from here on out will be more or LESS spectacular in rain production, so why not take the “best of the best”? A few panels with the most rain in them to put in your model outputs scrapbook?  Too, I was afraid you hadn’t seen these, and I just couldn’t let go of them myself, like pictures of an old girlfriend you just can’t throw away but probably should:

Valid for 5 AM AST, January 28th. Been talkin’ about rain on this day lately, and here it comes from the Pacific across both California’s.
5 pm 28 Jan 2013011912_CON_GFS_SFC_SLP_THK_PRECIP_WINDS_228
Valid at 5 PM AST, on the 28th. Soaking rains cover much of the State especially in the central mountains.









29 Jan 5 AM 2013011912_CON_GFS_SFC_SLP_THK_PRECIP_WINDS_240
Valid at 5 AM January 29th. The storm is slow to depart, and more soaking rain has occurred in the 12 h prior to this map (dark green and blue regions). How much is such a rain worth to our wildlife and vegetation alone?
5 PM 29 Jan 2013011912_CON_GFS_SFC_SLP_THK_PRECIP_WINDS_252
Valid for 5 PM AST, on the 29th. A storm center has intensified in the central Plains States and a tremendous rain, snow to the north, has enveloped it. It moves out slowly with a soaking rain shield to the north and west of the center.
It could hardly be better than this given the intensity of drought in this region.









Pretty much the same thing popped out of the models from last night’s 5 PM AST global crunch, so its great now that we have 4 model runs separated by 12 h each that have substantial AZ rain!  Gives confidence that this rain will occur as predicted, as well as that confidence that came from yesterday’s venerable spaghetti plots.  I am so pumped!  In the depictions above, Catalina gets about an inch of model rain!

Reality, of course, will be something else, but now, in these model outputs,  us Catalinians are  more into the rain areas predicted than on the edge as was the case a couple of days ago, less “iffy” for a rain to happen.  So, I am going for it:  one half inch in Catalina on the 28th.   You won’t hear your favorite media weather presenter telling you this today because its not really responsible to say an amount this far in advance.  But, here on the internet?   Anything goes, and I have demonstrated that just now.


I know that if I were to read your weather diary for yesterday it would read something like this;

“CIrrus lurked on the south to through west horizon all day.  Didn’t come over Catalina, just kind of stayed down there. I was hoping to see more of it.”

Here is that stagnant Cirrus at sunset that you wrote about yesterday.  You DO have a weather diary, don’t you?

5:51 PM. Sunset getting noticeably later now days.  Also, its well away from Twin Peaks (left of center), where it set on the December 21st, the winter solstice.

Expect some more patches of Cirrus today.  You can see the “moisture front” these clouds were in yesterday here in this water vapor loop from the University of Washington Huskies Weather Department.  That whitish area on the southern AZ border is where the Cirrus clouds were yesterday.  You will be able to see the “white stuff” (areas with more water vapor) beginning to head this way.



1In the 1960s we would have termed this upcoming storm a “Million Dollar Storm”, but with today’s economic realities, where we talk about “trillions and trillions” of dollars all the time, a “trillion dollar” this or that seems more appropriate, more “with it.”   Its great that dollars are only made out of paper; there will always be more paper for dollars! If they were made of anything else, I am sure we would run out of it.

Feeling good about others on mom’s day

In this case, we can feel really good about the people and mom’s in Texas today.


A huge dent was made in the drought there over the past seven days there.  Below is the radar-derived rainfall (its not from rain gauges) for just one week ending yesterday in the US, courtesy of WSI Intellicast, one of the writer’s favorite weather sites.  Check out the amounts in Texas!  Some locales (those yellowish areas) have received between 8 and 16 inches of rain for those seven days!  Imagine how good those folks feel in view of all the sad droughty, hot days they have endured over the past 12 months!  There has been drought relief, too, in southeast New Mexico.   This map, BTW, also still has our little rain event here in Catalina on it, too.

Coming into this “water year”, October 1-September 30th, the drought was about as bad as it could get.  See below from US Drought Monitor folks at Big Red in Lincoln.  Fortunately, the forecasts for continuing drought conditions in these parts of the SW and southern Plains, largely based on the presence of a La Nina regime in the eastern tropical Pacific,  were only partly correct for the ensuing fall-winter-spring period and the drought has been much alleviated.  The second drought monitor map, though not yet reflecting the most recent heavy rains (will post that on Tuesday when it comes out), gives you an idea of how our past eight months did in alleviating these horrible conditions, ones that helped drive hay prices so high as us horsey people know.

Also typical of weather patterns:  when its raining a lot in one segment of the country, its usually NOT in another segment.  So, you can see in the second map, while some of AZ and NM, and the southern Plains have gotten relief from drought, its gotten worse or spread to other areas in the West.

Not much else going on here, other than the chance of passing isolated Cirrus clouds today with a lot of hot air.

Dusty cool snap still in models for later in May, 25th plus or minus a day or two.

The End