Category Archives: Catalina climate data

While waiting for rain, some useful information…

Let’s look at February’s climo for Catalina, now that the month is practically half over (hahahah, sort of):Daily rain frequency for Feb


2012-2013 updated water year rainfall
Oh, my, such a sad chart so far….
What the experts at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center are thinking--a smudge of higher precipitation for Arizona!
What the experts at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center are thinking–a smudge of higher precipitation for Arizona, thought the chances, they feel, aren’t great, 30-40 % is all.  Still, its something.   This would be a pattern of precip that goes with our upcoming storm, one that will be much more of a dumpster in the northern half of the State than here.  With the spaghetti plots having already indicated a high probability of a big trough in the SW US a week ago, this forecast may be based only on that one pretty sure thing which would give a monthly prediction of above normal in the Four Corners area and northern Arizona  a leg up, so to speak.  I mean, you wouldn’t want to forecast below normal precip in a region for a whole month if you knew there was going to be a flood in the first two days of that month!  Hope this forecast is due to more than our Cold Slam, coming up!


BTW, yesterday I discovered at first sunlight that a trace of rain HAD fallen the previous night by finding raindrop images in the dust on my “trace detector” instrument  (a car parked outside under the open sky).  Hope you found drop images somewhere, too, and properly reported or at least, logged,  your trace  of rain.

Here’s a radar depiction of those areas of sprinkles from WSI Intellicast, amounts ending at 5 AM AST yesterday.  If you are in one of the faintly blue areas shown below, and DID NOT report a trace, we will have to consider confiscating your Cloud Maven Junior tee….and you should consider whether being a CMJ is really for you.  Its OK if its too much…

Ann  2013020412 AZpcp

Here the rain forecast from the WRF-GFS model, our best, as rendered by IPS MeteoStar:

Valid for 11 AM February 10th.  This is the first WRF-GFS run with rain here in it.  Only the Canadian model had rain here before this one.
Valid for 11 AM February 10th. This is the first WRF-GFS run with rain here in it. Only the Canadian model had rain here before this one.


The End.

Speaking of storms…the one tonight

Very exciting day ahead as the south to southwest winds pick up this afternoon to gusty proportions with some dust-haze in the air.  Cold front coming, as you you know.  Surface low pressure center passes to the north.  Very exciting, to repeat for emphasis.

Rain?  Oh, yeah. This time ALL of it After Midnight (different “reminder” version of this song of when-the-rain-will-start than the one I used last time; different comments, too, on YouTube by people who drink beer late into the night instead waiting for rain…  In fact, not one person mentions that he/she was up waiting for rain to start “after midnight”, as you and me might do today.

How much rain here in Catalina this time?

Well, let’s start out by guessing…from weather maps, pattern recognition, and stuff like that.  Oh, bottom (estimated 10% chance of less than this):  0.10 inches (namely, it shouldn’t be a dud with no rain at all).

Top amount potential,  if everything goes well (only 10% chance of more): 0.40 inches.   It doesn’t have the potential of the last blunderbuss of a storm (day 1 of that one where the top of 1.00 inches was realized), but “hey”, its a nice rain in the desert again, helping to plump up those just-ahead spring flowers and grasses.

Best estimate, most likely amount:  the average of those two guesses, 0.25 inches1.

OK, now I have JUST looked at the “B-Cluster” output from the U of A 06 z (11 PM AST) model run for OBJECTIVE guidance, not SOP stuff as above:  Rain begins here in this model at 1 AM AST (probably too soon by a couple of hours), and the total amount, as predicted by a computer that might have cost billions? Pretty much the same as me,  0.10 to 0.25 inches!  I must be wrong!  (hahahahaha).


Serious note:  the U of A could really use a donation from you to help keep stuff like the Beowulf computer cluster going; I’ve contributed.  See online U of A Department notice in RED letters, calling out a dire situation here.  It would be a shame if some of their stuff goes away.


Now if you’re a pattern person, you will be noticing that this trough is the type in which Catalina amounts are significantly greater than those to the south, such as in Tucson and the surrounding lowlands, and often this comes toward the end of the storm when we see the rain hanging on for an extra hour or two and the clouds pile up against the Catalina Mountains on our side of them as the wind turns more perpendicular to them as the trough goes by.  Always a nice time to look at radar because you see little echoes popping out of a no-echo but cloud filled sky, ones that then head toward us.  Here where that trough is at 5 AM AST tomorrow morning, its apex right over you and me!

Note above, in timing the onset of the rain, that by 5 AM AST, the strongest winds of this trough (at this level, 500 millybars) has gone by–forecast the rain to have begun by this time; nice rain beginning time window, with the Beowulf being a bit fast (as per usual):  Between 2 AM and 5 AM AST tomorrow morning. Set alarm clock.  This is so much fun!  For extra razzle dazzle for your neighbors, tell them the rain will start between 2:08 AM and 4:32 AM.  You can’t get this kind of forecasting precision elsewhere!  This is so much fun!!!

As you know, too, the temperature will PLUMMET during the frontal rainband early tomorrow morning as it always does, maybe 10 degrees F or more in an hour, along with the familiar pressure check (sudden rising pressure, one that occurs just about the instant the wind at the ground shifts from wind from the southwest to northwest zephyrs (sounds like a soccer team).


Yesterday’s clouds

There weren’t any.   Hahahahahaha.  From the 16th, a picture of a “frosty Lemmon.”  (Its amazing how you can just be sitting here, and after one or two cups of coffee, this kind humorous creativity just bubbles up from below.  The brain is really something, as the special issue of Science mag will tell you, talkin’ about the hippocampus and neocortex and the mysterious things they do, like thinking that “frosty Lemmon” is funny. You really should read this whole issue to find out what’s going on up there in that cranial cavity you have.)








————Footnote in middle of blog for a deliberate change in normal protocol—————

1Kind of like footnoting, makes me feel like a real author or librarian…  I came up with this technique in Durango, Colorado, in the early 1970s with the Colorado River Basin Pilot Project, a gigantic randomized cloud seeding experiment covering much of the San Juan Moutains.  Its based on the fact that we meteorologists often have a better idea, a more concrete one, of what’s NOT going to happen.  By estimating the extremes of a storm (the crude weather models of that day off this way or that some), it turned out that you could engineer in a way, a better forecast of the amount that would actually occur.  In a sense, doing that was performing a “mental ensemble” or mental spaghetti plot have two members (outputs)1(kind of like footnoting…).

Of course, in Durango, CO, we had an objective forecast scheme based on the work of the late Dr. J. Owen Rhea,  former chief project forecaster in Durango,  who came up with the basic idea behind what is now called the PRISM method of estimating rainfall between gages in complex terrain.  Used today to present statewide rainfall averages such as this one for Arizona, courtesy of the Western Region Climate Center.  This is a very nice guide if you’re unhappy about the rain/snow you’re getting and want to live where there’s more, a true precipophile:

Those big storms just ahead

They’re definitely in the pipeline….  (Here you can feel the confidence slacking that bit from “count on it” yesterday to “definitely” today.  Was chagrined by model outputs during the day yesterday, that, while having many AZ rains, were ones having reduced amounts, and were less numerous.

Still, will ride the “Big Storms Wave” right into oblivion if necessary because that’s what I saw in the “ensembles of spaghetti” and they have NOT let me down once that I know of (another fudge phrase).

BTW, what happens after you have seen those wavey lines in the “ensemble members” (each line is called a “member”) is that you come to expect a disappointing output or two–but you don’t really worry TOO MUCH about them, because the Big Boys will be back if the ensembles are correct, as well as your interpretation of them.

So while yesterday during the day the outputs backed off so much rain here as foretold at this very blog, during the night, with the 00 Z (5 PM AST run) not too surprisingly those big rains came back.

In sum, watch for strong storms and big rains in the last week of December into early January.


Let’s look at December and the beginning of the second Catalina rain season

A day of pretty Cirrus and a nice sunset yesterday:

5:35 PM.








Now for some more of that Catalina climo, featuring December

(Most of these data below are due to the folks at Our Garden right here in Catalinaland just off Columbus._

First, the rainfall frequency chart for December.  Not much going on.  Chances of rain on any day about the same as any other, no trend up or down during the month, except for that one peak.  Below this chart, in the monthly averages for the October through September “water year”, you’ll see that the average rainfall has jumped up considerably in December from November. Yay!

 But will it rain at all in December 2012?

Let’s check…and also look, just for the HECK of it, whether any trough/storm is headed here in the 11th-13th rain frequency peak shown in the first plot…to see whether the atmosphere “likes” to have a little rain in Catalina in that time frame this year.

Below, the USA WRF-GFS model output, again rendered by IPS MeteoStar, from the global data taken at 5 PM AST valid for Monday, December 10th at 5 AM (close enough):


Astounding!  A strong trough with rain IS predicted in about that time frame where the chance of rain in our 35 year record peaks, though a bit early.  If this map verified, rain would be ending at about the time of this map, 5 AM AST on the 10th,  it would be very, very cold, probably in the upper 30s in that rain.   Amazing.

But let’s check with the superior Enviro Can model from the Canadians, our friends to the north, because-its-built-on-the-Euro-model-where-they-have-more money-for-big-computers-and-better-models-than-we-do.

(PS:  You’ll be pretty upset when you read this–Model comparisons Science-2012-Kerr-734-7 —about US and Euro models.)

Not even close to the prediction by the USA model!

Unbelievable difference, in fact.  In the USA model, the apex of the trough is over us in Catalina and in the superior (or will it be?) Canadian model,  its over the “‘Braska” Cornhuskers, Lincoln, NE, maybe ONE THOUSAND miles farther east!

Unbelievable2.  This is a phenomenon, BTW, which does happen from time to time, that is called, “model divergence”, to put it mildly.

So where do we check to find out where the truth lies, if the truth can lie at all (to borrow a line from Harry Shearer)?

The NOAA spaghetti factory, which I have annotated for you below:


Outstanding forecast reliability is indicated in the Pacific,  off Asia, but who cares?
Sadly, only mediocre reliability indicated here in the Great SW USA, as shown in the wanderings of the blue lines.
But will a trough be close to us?
Pretty much count on that because so many blue lines feint to the south in interior of the western US. I think we’ll surpass the Canadians this time…
There’s still a chance of rain on the 9-10th, but its pretty slim.  Having cold air invade us, to varying degrees is pretty much guaranteed even if sans rain because that nearby trough will drag cooler air this way as it goes by.
Its the AMPLITUDE that matters here, and in our USA model, that is not so well known.  In fact, the blue lines, with so many of them north of us are telling us that the actual forecast map from last night’s global data is an outlier model run;  can’t count on it.  It will likely come and go on the future model runs.
The End.


Summer and water year rain stats

Today, something useful….

Summer 2012 rainfall, June-September:  9.04 inches, average 7.27 inches.

Water year rainfall, October 1, 2011 through September 30th, 2012:  16.00 inches, average 17.04 inches.

No trend in summer rainfall at Catalina evident over the past 36 years. Yay!


While water year rainfall declined after the very wet years when Catalina records began at Our Garden, the water year rainfall has stabilized over the past 10-15 years. Yay#2.


To see surrounding values, in some cases considerably higher than Catalina’s go to the U of Arizona’s and in the upper right hand corner, select, “date range.”  This is an enormously handy tool to compare area totals.  (Some stations, however, do not have a complete record, and so some totals are ludicrously small.)  Its interesting to note the isolated contributors to who are in British Columbia, Canada and in the Mid-west.  How funny.  They must really like us.

The weather ahead

The models are still indicating a cold trough and rain chances here beginning on the 9th-11th (last evening’s 11 PM AST run of the WRF-GFS model.  That’s it for the next 15 days.

Here is strong evidence that we will be affected by a pretty strong lower latitude trough coming across California and combining with another one dropping down from the Pac NW, this ensemble or “spaghetti plot” from NOAA:

Notice the lack of blue contours in the northern US, AND just inside the interior of the West Coast where there are “dark spots.”  Those mean that there is a pretty reliable chance of a trough in the interior of the West on the afternoon of Monday, October 8th at 5 PM AST (October 9th, 00 GMT).  The absence of contours in the northern tier of the US indicates that the jet stream will be south of its usual position (suggested by the green line).

The most reliable predictions in a spaghetti plot are where the blue lines are bunched together, such as in the central and western Pacific Ocean in this output map.

All this doesn’t mean its going to rain here for sure, but there will certainly be quite a change in the temperatures here about this map time (plus or minus a day or so) and a rain threat.

The End.




Our Catalina summer rains and when they come

Below is an updated chart showing the frequency of rain in Catalina from June 1st through September 30th.  These data are mostly the courtesy of Our Garden here in Catalina on Stallion Place, supplemented in the past few years by obs here on Wilds Road.  Thought you’d like to see this to get your day started thinking about rain. Its pretty self-explanatory, which saves me a lot of work.


For really pretty charts of temperatures and rain frequencies, go here to WeatherSpark, a very nice site.  No stations at our elevation and near us are available in their station list for Arizona, however.  We are, as you know,  very much affected by our higher elevation than those longterm stations around us like Tucson (rain increases in Arizona mainly with elevation) and because of our nearness to the Catalina Mountains which are a spawning ground for the summer showers that often affect us.

 The weather ahead

Models are still showing rain creeping into SE AZ tomorrow.  If nothing else, we should see some Cumulonimbus tops off to the SE by late afternoon or evening.

Here, from the U of WA, valid for tomorrow evening at 8 PM AST.  Note lightly colored regions in SE AZ:

Looking WAY out ahead, the NOAA spaghetti factory has turned out plots that make it seem like the summer rain season will get started for real (steadily) on July 4-5th, as suggested by the rain frequency chart above. Here what came out for 5 PM AST, July 5th, some 14 days from now that makes that seem likely.


Note that dark region to the north of Arizona, that region mostly located in Utah and Colorado.  This spaghetti plot/ensemble runs of the model after introducing slight errors or changes in “initial conditions” those at the very start of the model run.  That dark region represents a pretty strong signal in the data that our big fat anticyclone (at 500 millibars, around 20,000 feet here in the summertime) will be located in a favorable position for good rains here in southern Arizona.  The red lines are those lines that pretty much represent the boundaries of that high, and you can see that they are located to the south of us, as well as to the north.  In the summer, you want to be in a LOT of red lines to the south of the high, representing in this case, nice easterly flow with a lot of humidity in it across northern Mexico.

Looking forward to seeing some real rain, and how this plays out.

The End


 Something in the sky to look at, Cirrus!  And more!

Some Cirrus, Cirrocumulus, Altocumulus clouds from the tropics have floated over in time for a nice sunrise presentation.  Some of these clouds should be around all day.  From this morning:

Also, let me reprise our June rain frequency chart for Catalina.  “Upon further review”, I have altered some text box wording to reflect a more accurate picture.  In reviewing some Tucson rain days in early June, where I had asserted that they were associated with “cold troughs”, I learned from an review of old weather maps that, while those rains were associated with troughs in the upper levels, they weren’t nearly so cold and strong as I had believed.  And those troughs had tapped the tropics for the rains that fell, and I had not indicated that.  It bugged me that I had got that wrong and so here is the corrected version of that chart.

Also with “only” 35 years of data here in Catalina, the “transition” zone below could be a statistical fluke.  In checking the Tucson 100 year plus record, there has been rain on days in this “transition” period, so its not impossible.  No rain is indicated during this period in the models right now, either, but there is a threat of rain developing.  More on that below.

Looking troughy enough for a rain threat in a few days

From our Canadian friends, this four panel prog chart for the afternoon of June 16th.  Note “trough” (upper left panel) extruding southward from Montana all the way down to Cabo San Lucas.  The models have had this figured out for many days, but the magnitude of the trough, the strength of the winds around it, and how much cool air it would contain way down here in the SW US,  has been subject to some wild variations.  Now it appears that the trough will be pretty weak, not much cold air in it, BUT, with the amplitude it has (how far south it extends) makes it possible to fetch us some tropical air.  None of the models have much in the way of moist air reaching us YET.  Take a look at the lower left panel for moisture at 700 millibars, or around 7,000 feet above the ground here in Catalina.  That blue shading shows that the moist plume drawn northward will mainly be in eastern NM and west TX, which will be good for them, but not us.  Still these kinds of things are dicey and one of those rare days with rain in mid-June is not out of the question.   What is life without hope?

The End.




Gone but still there

As expected, the odd pattern of just 24 h ago disappeared on the later model runs.

Is it really gone?

Nope.  Might pop back up on a subsequent run.

While our usual June inferno continues for a few more days (here’s the NWS forecast for Catalina), a cool trough of air is destined to come here 6 days from now and linger for a few.  Here’s the totality of evidence for that assertion, this plot valid 8 days from now, Friday afternoon, June 17th.  In case you have forgotten where Arizona is, I have repeated the map below this one with an arrow to help you out.

What do you see in the western US?

A lot of blue lines!  Ones that outline where a cool-cold trough of upper air will be.  Notice where the red lines are, those ones that outline where the southern periphery of the jet stream will be located, those being the outer boundary of the cool air trough.   They’re ALL WAY down in Baja, California!  This VIRTUALLY guarantees an a trough of cool-cold air along the West Coast in 8-10 days!  Along with that, the possibility that tropical air will move up from the south and get into Arizona.

Yesterday, the model believed a hurricane would form and move northward, its remnant dribbling into Cal and AZ.  The model (at 00 Z last night) saw tropical storms forming, but they remain far to the south of even Baja!

Well, that prediction I showed yesterday was SO STRANGE it certainly wasn’t going to happen nine days out into the future.  It was an outlier.

But, what is guaranteed from an inspection of the maps above, is a trough along the West Coast, and with that, comes the possibility of a rain here, not from the cool air part of the trough, that won’t happen, but rather from tropical air being whooshed up around the outer, warm boundary of the jet, marked by those red lines.  Right now, if you’re in the mountains of New Mexico, eastern plains of NM, and west Texas, you are just about guaranteed to get that tropical air and with it, showers and thunderstorms.

A climate note:  it has not rained in Catalina between June 9th and 19th here in Catalina for 35 years; NO measurable rain on those  days yet.  I’ve reprised the June daily rain frequency for our 35 years here:

What should you take from that?

There are likely climatological factors, one’s having to do with the march of the seasons, that work against even the presence of clouds!  Chances are it is what we would call in climate, a “singularity”, something akin to the January thaw in the northeast US.   Here its a June transition season from the time a cold trough can bring us a bit of rain, and the onset of the tropical air regime with its Cumulus and showers, jet streams not involved then.  (I’ve assumed that 35 years is enough to suggest a real feature, not a statistical fluke.)

So, with this big trough foretold to occur during our normal dry spell-transition period, you’d have to go against the chances of precip in a knee-jerk fashion.  We’d most likely end up BETWEEN where there are showers in cold Pacific air inside the trough, and dry regime outward from that zone, to a plume of tropical air just to the east of us over NM and TX.  Doesn’t mean rain can’t happen, but don’t bet on rain during this period through June 19th.

As a final comment, note the dark area in the central Pacific on these maps. That dark area repersents and extrusion of cold air well toward the tropics out there, also an unsual occurrence, and it is vital for us.  Note that even the blue lines, noting the core of the jet, has extruded southward out there.  That extrusion (my favorite word I think), in essence, creates a “bounce” in the latitude of the jet downstream, a southward extrusion along the West Coast.  The dark hole out there indicates that even 8-10 days out, the computer predictions are extremely confident that there will be that extrusion of cold air toward the equator out there, and that, in turn, strengthens the likelyhood of a  unusually strong  “bounce” trough along the West Coast 8-10 days out.

It will be fun watching this develop, since we’ll like get a much cooler day or two about that time.   But, it would be even better if the hurricane shows up again, and is steered thisaway as it was yesterday!

OK, enough, gotta go ride a horse

Trendless summer rains, and a look at what June has to offer

OK, cooling off now after yesterday’s rant (which somehow I just now notice has the wrong published date!), emotions now pretty much drained….
After noting that our cool season rains have oscillated into a drier spell from a very wet one over the past 35 years, it seemed like looking at what has happened to our summer rains would be appropriate today.  So, on to the next chapter of Catalina climo, a look at our summer rain season, and a look specifically at June. 
Have to harden myself, and you, too, for the tough 2 week transitional season that begins right now,  one that occurs between the end of rain chances here from cold troughs in the westerlies, and those rain chances associated with onset of the summer rains, sometimes called our “monsoon” season.  As you will see below, its not until June 20th that the chances of summer showers really shows up at all.
Thus, the next two weeks are the driest, and often the warmest of the year.  Almost no chance of rain (see second graph).  Steel yourself, my friends.

What kind of a trend do we have in our 35 year summer rain records for Catalina?  None, which is great.

This graph is reprised from an earlier climate issues (rant?)  blog.  It includes last year’s June through September rains.

Let’s look at June.  Not much explanation required, so will quit here.

Here’s where the original “dusty coolsnap”, so well timed by the models some two weeks ago, ended up yesterday, mostly off to the north of us. Take a look at these 24 h temperature differences for yesterday afternoon, courtesy of The Weather Channel. Stunning!

The End.


Catalina winter rainfall to end by 2035!

I was working on updating our Catalina October through May historical rainfall data with this past season’s total,  when a friend brought this Scientific American article to my attention. Today’s blog title is inspired by the May 25th, 2012, issue of Scientific American, one in which it was pronounced :

“Climate Armageddon: How the World’s Weather Could Quickly Run Amok [Excerpt]

Climate scientists think a perfect storm of climate “flips” could cause massive upheavals in a matter of years.” 

The full, scary article is here.   Sci Am, in this article, created the “perfect storm” of sensationalism….alluding here to their sub-title.   Worst case climate conjectures are piled to dizzying heights.  It has inspired many commentaries like the one I am going to make below.   Be sure to read the many comments at the end of the Sci Am article.

The key word in the title and sub-title is, “could.”  For credibility, the Sci. Am. also used the phrase, “climate scientists” which technically could mean just two of thousands or all of them. They quote a couple of climate scientists, but few climate scientists believe that the horrendous things conjectured in this article will happen “quickly”,  in a “matter of years”;  that there are “tipping points” that will lead to temperatures here that will melt lead (as in metal)!
Now for today’s blog…
I realized as soon as I saw the Sci Am headine that what I was going to write about concerning Catalina’s updated rainfall from this past winter would be pretty lame; not sensational enough.  So I thought I would rework our Catalina rainfall update from this past cool season to better reflect today’s climate reporting modus operandi;  kind of “go with the flow”, grab some headlines, and that MO is reflected in today’s title.
By the way, the majority of the data I am going to show, originate with the folks at Our Garden, a place you should patronize royally for the great local climate records they have kept for us.

What I saw, thinking in the “excitement” vein after the Sci Am article, is that by projecting the trendline (best fit) of our 35 year decline in rainfall we have now just a couple of decades into the future,  is that the trendline would reach the zero rainfall point, the x-axis, before long.  With that intercept at zero comes the unassailable (or is it?) conclusion that it will no longer rain between October 1st and May 31st in Catalina by 2035!

Fantastic!  A show-stopper!   Finally, I will be popular.  But in reporting this I will have to look very sad, upset, but at the same time be glad inside that I have something great that people will want to hear.

Moreover,  these results I am reporting can be expanded beyond Catalina; more excitement!  Catalina is MUCH wetter than surrounding lowland areas in the cool season, about 10 inches vs. 5-6 inches, lower areas that include Tucson, Marana, etc. Therefore, this conclusion can be confidently applied to those lower elevation locations as well, ones that have huge populations:  No more cool season rain by 2035 in Tucson!

But, why stop even there with our local scene?

Why not assert, since no precipitation station “…is an island, entire of itself”,  to paraphrase John Donne, that this trend MAY apply to the entire State of Arizona and adjacent states as well!  Now we’re talkin’ some real excitement, 10s of millions of people getting worked up.

Now for the totality of evidence for my end-of-rainfall claim, this graph1:

 Call a news conference now!


OK, “truth-in packaging”: its not going to happen, relax.

Here is a long term, quite soothing record of Arizona rainfall over the years, courtesy of NOAA via Roger Cohen, who was commenting on a NM wildfire story in the New York Times with his graph:

In our own Catalina rainfall graph, I don’t have enough data to draw any real conclusions about trends, and that’s clear from this long term graph going back into the late 1890s.

Of course, it is also known by the climate mavens out there, and is also shown in the long term graph, that “Mr. and Mrs. Our Garden” began taking records during one of the wettest periods in Arizona history and in the Southwest as a matter of fact, over the past 100 and more years!  Take a look at the NOAA graph above and observe those rainfall values in the late 1970s into the early 1990s.  So, if you moved here then, and think the climate was much wetter back then than it is now, you’re right, but it wouldn’t have been our normal climate, either! Get over it, as The Eagles have told us to do; after all, we live in desert where most years are drier than normal.

So, a downward trend after the first ten years or so of the Our Garden rainfall record was inevitable.  You need at least 50 years to establish climate normals and trends, particularly around mountainous regions, according to the World Meteorological Organizations statements on climate records.

Note, too, that it was consistently DRIER than here during the past 10 years of “drought” in the late 1940s through into the early 1970s, and also at the turn of the century!  Amazing.  Man, those were awful times in AZ!

You can stop reading here since most of the points I wanted to make have been made.
The End1


OK, now to be serious for awhile;  soapbox time, rant time, what-scientists-are-supposed-to-do time, “ideals of science”, etc.  Furrowing brow now…usually people start moving away, etc.

Scientific American is a magazine that tries to be “scientific”, that is, report recent findings in science in an objective manner, and make them understandable for the general public.  Great.

Unfortunately, the temptation for a general audience magazine is always one of trying to get the most readers for each issue (“bang” for the “buck”), and the temptation to phrase article titles in sensational terms to gain readership is always present, as I have done in the title of this blog, trying to expand readership beyond the two I have.   Its understandable.   Even in our best peer-reviewed journals, the hardest ones to get into, Science and Nature, have this temptation to some degree, but mostly avoid it with staid covers and “headlines.”

But going the sensational route has a way of backfiring, like the claims made in the late 1960s into the 1970s about an imminent ice age; that our warm “Interglacial” period between Ice Ages (the Holocene)  was about to end, and “global cooling” was going to wreak havoc with just about everything.

Or, more recently, that snowpacks in the Pacific Northwest were going to disappear soon, in just decades like my claim above about Catalina rainfall.  Those claims were made by scientists who got carried away by using only some of the data, not all of it, beginning with an era of high snowpacks, as I have done with our Catalina rainfall, starting with an era of high rainfall.

Those snowpack claims, too, were ones that were ripe for a hungry media primed for global warming (or earlier, global cooling) disaster stories which, of course, sell newspapers and magazines and appeared in such media giants as Time, and numerous media outlets.  The greater the catastrophic outlooks, the greater the sales.

Snowpacks in the Pacific NW have been increasing since those claims were made, 5-10 years ago.  Nor could researchers find any evidence that the temperatures over the past few decades at mountain top level were increasing, something that had to happen to support claims of earlier melting off of snowpacks and less deep ones.  If real estate has the mantra, location, location, location, science is supposed to have the mantra, caution, caution, caution.

Now it MAY be that EVENTUALLY snowpacks in the Pacific Northwest WILL decline.  But the scientists who made the original sensational claims were incautious.  They should have pointed out that it will be a very gradual process and many things might come to bear on such an overall gradual decrease that might make it appear that nothing is happening for years at a time due to changes in weather regimes, like the Pacific Decadal OscillationArctic Oscillation, etc.. Those of us who know weather know that there are tipping points in which weather regimes go into a new modes, where low centers like to be changes, and those changes can persist for many years.  Why they happen is not known but being investigated.

These kinds of regime tips from one state to another was anticipated by the “Father of Chaos Theory”, E. N. Lorenz, some 40 years ago (e.g., “Climate Change as a Mathematical Problem” when he pointed out the charateristics of atmospheres that are “transitive” (ones that don’t flip-flop into new modes) and “intransitive” ones that do flip-flop into new modes without much “forcing”.   Flip-floping is just an inherent property that an “intransitive” atmosphere has and is likely represented by the oscillations mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Interestingly, looking back at all the climate flip-flops that had occurred over the eons of the earth’s history, Lorenz ventured that “human (climate) forcings” can likely be ignored since they had not caused the remarkable climate changes in the past.

Those of us who know anything about the global warming future projected know that REGIONAL effects of GW are dicey; not well known.  Some places could really warm up, while some places could even cool off due to, for example, stronger summer sea breezes flowing toward warmer continents, something that may already be under way according to some researchers.

Or, the storm track-jet stream positions might shift and bring cooler weather to a relatively small regions while the globe overall warms up.  We know, for example, that troughs aloft (with their cold air) tend to shift inland to the western US as the northern hemisphere warms up in the spring.  As that happens, storms with cold fronts tend to move more from the northwest to the southeast, delaying the onset of higher spring temperatures in the West that otherwise might happen.

These regional effects are just beginning to be explored with higher resolution models that can capture regional effects better.

Now we’re ALL concerned today about where the climate MAY be heading.

We, the people,  are really wrecking things royally with our air pollution and trace gas emissions.  The sky is awful-looking on a regular basis due to smog in huge parts of the world now.  What’s interesting is how accustomed, and non-chalant we have become to the “white sky” so prevalent in the eastern US on humid days.

The climate system of this planet is extremely complicated and even now it is not known why the earth’s temperature has stopped increasing over the past 10-15 years while there have been huge increases in CO2 and methane, those gases that are mainly responsible for the projected and past global warmings that have occurred.

We, as scientists, should always pause, take a deep breath of “humility”, when something major like this happens, the recent leveling of the earth’s temperature, when we can’t explain it and start to rethink our hypotheses.  No climate model expected this leveling in temperature to happen back when it started.

Here in Catalina we have a “problem” with our climate rainfall data.  Its been drying out for awhile, years, really, in the cooler part of the year  (October through May), and last winter’s precip did nothing to alter this downward trend even though it was wetter than the previous cool season of Oct 2010-May 2011.   That latter one was so dry that there were no spring wildflowers at the end of that awful winter.

Global warming (GW) is the most easily, readily accepted explanation for everything these days, including that big dust devil that went through Catalina a few days ago around 3:30 PM.  In the 1950s, it was “atomic testing” that caused all manner of strange weather inthe popular lexicon, 1960s and 1970s, it was global cooling (with scientists on board), and in the 1980s and 1990s, El Ninos caused EVERYTHING strange, beyond what we know El Ninos really do.

Those were fun times for real meteorologists, familiar with the year to year vagaries of weather, ones that lead to extremes of all kinds.

The End2.


1Since sarcasm is the refuge of a small mind its been said, I have added some more sarcasm to the legends in this graph as well.  I am exulting in the small mind!  Why pretend to be something you’re not?



Baby cutoff low coming to a sky near you; is followed by June in May

Something to blab about at last.  The computer models show a small area of low pressure breaking off the main jet stream and setttling over Arizona for a few days.  Arrives on Monday, May 7th, then hangs around for a couple of days before moving off.  Rain here?  Doesn’t look like it now, but there should be some high based Cumulus, and one or two high-based thunderstorms over the mountains, maybe some Altocumulus here and there, too.

The happy part of this is that this time of year weak lows aloft like this one can produce a boatload of rain in the droughty areas of eastern New Mexico and west Texas when they interact with that Gulf air sloshing northward and westward into those areas.  That happens after this forecast map.  Let’s hope so.  See below from our friends at Environment Canada for the afternoon of May 7th:


However, and pretty confidently predicted a huge bubble of warm air arises over us in the days.  This in the longer term NOAA WRF-GFS model rendered by IPS Meteostar below.  The last of the snowbirds will be scurrying off to their northern climes when this hits since temperatures are likely to ascend to over 100 F for a few days (a preview of normal June weather).  Get ready.


Mr. Cloud-maven person misspoke recently when he asserted that May was our driest month.  Below he reprises the Catalina monthly rainfall averages for himself and his two other readers.

JUNE is our driest month!