Category Archives: El Nino-La Nina

After the rain, the oven

First, pretty nice sunset yesterday evening, which is redundant because sunset always occurs in the evening.

7:18 PM.  Altostratus with slight amounts of virga, underlit by the evening sunset. Haha, "evening sunset."
7:18 PM. Altostratus with slight amounts of virga, underlit in the evening sunset. Haha, “evening sunset.”


7:19 AM.  Only the virga is highlighted over here.  Liked the way was splayed over a house in the foreground.
7:19 AM. Liked the way was splayed over a house in the foreground. Sort of perty.


7:42 AM.  Thicker Cirrus clouds are Cirrus spissatus, or "Cis spis" for short, though not in polite company.  Should be the State Cloud of Arizona, we see so much of it, white or gray patches of ice cloud.  Kind of fed up with just "Cirrus-ee" skies these days.
7:42 AM. The thicker Cirrus clouds are Cirrus spissatus, or “Cis spis” for short, though not in polite company. Should be the State Cloud of Arizona, we see so much of it, those white or gray patches of ice cloud. Kind of fed up with just “Cirrus-ee” skies these days.


7:43 AM.  Looking north-northwest from Catalina toward Mt. Humphries, a delicate blend of Cirrus uncinus fibers (upper half of photo) with thicker Cirrus spissatus in the distance (thicker appearance not due to perspective).
7:43 AM. Looking north-northwest from Catalina toward Mt. Humphries, a delicate blend of Cirrus uncinus fibers (upper half of photo) with thicker Cirrus spissatus in the distance (thicker appearance not due to perspective).

OK, enough great information on clouds and things we can see from Catalina/Sutherland Heights, now for the rain ahead….

Rainshowers, some thunderstorms wrap around this low that drifts from over San Diego to over Puerto Peñasco, Mexico (aka, Rocky Point) by Saturday.  Here the Canadian version of what the weather configurations will be this coming Saturday morning:

Valid at 5 AM AST, Saturday
Valid at 5 AM AST, Saturday


As you can see, a little bit of tropical air gets whirled into this low from someplace down Mexico way, and, viola, showers and a couple of thunderstorms erupt.  This could happen anytime between Thursday night and Sunday morning, maybe even a couple of days of scattered showers.

Rain here in Catalina?  I think so.  Likely range, not a lot, but from a low end of just 0.05 inches, to as much as a quarter of an inch by Sunday morning (10% chance of less; only 10% chance of more, as a first take on this).  Gorgeous, dramatic skies are guaranteed, and likely some strong winds here and there emanating those high-based thunderstorms we can get this time of year.

BTW, not reporting on the US model forecast since it shows the low next weekend passing a little farther to the north, i. e., doesn’t take as favorable a track for rain here as the Enviro Can model shown above.

The weather way ahead

After the little “lowboy” goes by next weekend (producing some great, badly needed rains in NM and TX), the Arizona oven is turned on.  Look for a string of 100+ days beginning in about a week.

Coming to weather theaters next fall and winter, “The Ninja (?) Nino.”  Looks warmer and warmer down there in those key “Classic” and “The New Nino” equatorial ocean zones off South America to Hawaii.  CPC’s (Climate Prediction Center) is getting pretty worked up about it, too.   Check it out below and here:

Sea surface temperature anomalies from NOAA, valid for May 19, 2014. OK, here we go!
Sea surface temperature anomalies from NOAA, valid for May 19, 2014. OK, here we go!CPC











Of course, as we know here, the effect on the summer rainfall season is not really well documented.  But things can wetten up in late summer and fall due to tropical storms that drift farther north toward us, remaining a bit stronger because the ocean temperatures that maintain them are a bit warmer.  This enhances the chance of a wet spell or two then.  Mainly, with a good Nino,  the chances of a wet winter go up a lot, particular the mid and later parts.

In the meantime, let us dream about September and October 1983, as the Great El Nino of 1982-83 was fading, but still was associated with colossal rains in Arizona those two months.  In case you forgot, this recap about those days and TS Octave.  During that water year of that Great Nino, October 1982 through the first couple of days of October 1983, just a year and a couple of days, Catalina recorded a Seattle-like 32 inches of rain!

The End

El Niño in formation; possibly even an “Eel Niño” (a big one)

Sent to ME just yesterday from an El Niño expert in Monterrey with the NOAA SW Fisheries Center, this update:

“(An El Nino is coming)….faster than you might think:  Looks to me that we’ll have what I’d consider a ‘full-blown’ El Niño in the tropics by the end of the month, maybe even sooner. And it looks like it’ll be on the big bad side …”

I felt like a recipient of insider trading info!  But what do I do with this info?  Guess I’ll just pass it along verbatim to you.  Maybe you’ll be as happy as I am, hearing this news.  El Niños generally lead to wetter conditions throughout the SW, so maybe we’ll get some substantial water next winter, but then if it floods like in Jan ’93 like it did with that El Niño, I am sure we’ll be complaining (almost 17 inches of rain that month at the old Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery/Oak Creek Canyon area).  Thirty-eight inches (!) of rain that Jan ’93 month at one southern Cal mountain location, Lytle Creek Ranger Station, I think it was.


Upper trough trudging across area today, tomorrow and into Sunday, a mostly dry one.  However, some Cumulus should form later today,  maybe with a couple of Cirrus/Altocumulus/CIrrocumulus at times, too.  The air aloft should be cold enough by late today, but especially tomorrow,  to spawn large enough Cumulus clouds with tops cold enough to contain ice, viz., small Cumulonimbus clouds of the kind we had a couple of weeks ago with virga and dust eruptions.  So there is a chance of a sprinkle or a hundredth or two tomorrow afternoon here.  Check here for the great U of AZ model output from 11 PM AST last night–not finished yet at at 4:37 AM.  But it will likely have some precip around the Catalina area tomorrow afternoon when the calcs finish.

The End.

Let’s check in on the upcoming El Niño

Here’s the ENTIRE message I got  just last night from an El Niño expert:

“For your entertainment, see below… and in other news, looks to me like an El Niño is coming on fast – maybe you and I will get plenty of rain in winter 2014.”

My friend, with insider El Niño “trading” info,  lives in Monterrey, California, and is referring to the 2014-15 winter as a whole.  Pretty exciting I thought since we can put the current winter pretty much in the trash can and move on…

BTW, the first part of his message referred to a sci lecture at the U of AZ on Monday about global warming impacts (now repackaged as “climate change”, since its not really been warming anymore  for some time, well, since your teenaged son was born, for some reason).  I think you should go there and hear it.

But, in the meantime, let us look at the ocean temperature anomalies (way below) and see what this expert is talkin’ about when it comes to an upcoming El Nino.

Some Niño background

First of all, let us remember there are two kinds of El Ninos, “Classic El Niño” (aka, “Classic Niño”) and “The New El Niño” (aka, “The New Niño”).  Below, we’ll use the short versions.

“Classic Niño” is the one we talked about for hundreds of years, well, maybe not you and me, but the one Peruvian  fisherfolk got real worked up over when, suddenly, the ocean water along the extreme northern coast of Chile and all of Peru warmed up and changed what fish were out there it got so warm.

Not only that, it began to rain like HELL in areas that were total deserts because the warm water brought tropical air with huge Cumulonimbus clouds that rained like HELL, to repeat and emphasize a point, and also to add some colorful language to what might otherwise be a dull discourse.

And that rain and warm water extended westward all the way to the Galapagos Islands where the people who lived there, if any, also got worked up over sudden. gushing rains.  Well, who knows if anyone lived there, but certainly the totals (haha, I thought I was typing, “turtles” and it came out “totals”–how funny izzat?) got worked up; whole bio communities could get almost wiped out by those sudden, punishing rains.

Before the big Cu moved in, all they had in the Galapagos was Stratocumulus and small Cumulus (boring!)   Sometimes those kinds of clouds could drizzle a little, or produce light rainshowers, and that’s about it.  Those shallow clouds were topped by a temperature reversal with increasing height, so they could never grow up to be Cbs.  The relatively cool waters normally along the Equator in the eastern Pacific were responsible.

When Niños occur, they extended even farther westward than just the Galapagos along the Equator,  as the unusually warm water propagated into the mid-Pacific Ocean.  Other islands out there,  like the Galapagos, and normally very, very dry, would be ambushed by heavy rains from huge clouds they hadn’t seen in years when normally,  they only saw “cup cake” Cumulus” with passing occasional very light showers, like Johnston Island way out there somewhere south of Hawaii.

But, the “Classic Niño”, wasn’t really good enough for scientists.   So they made up a new formulation of Nino and introduced “The New Niño”, sometime in the 1990s or, as they called it, to be more technical with greater obfuscation for scientific purposes,  “Region 3.4”which is really a patch of the equatorial waters WAY offshore  along the Equator from where “Classic Niño” occurs (120 to 170 degrees W longitude).  You can read about it, get more details, here.

Why did scientists do this?

Because “The New Niño”, or “Region 3.4”, to return to jargon) did a better job with something we call “teleconnections.”  “Teleconnections” is not a new service by Verizon, but rather how weather in one locale is related to the weather in another region, usually thousands of miles away.  It was something that was noticed in the middle of the last century, how, say,  stormy weather in one area was associated with stormy weather in another.  Often, severe winters in the eastern US are associated with severe winters in Europe, as an example, though it did not happen this winter.

In the the case of El Niños overall, research in the area of teleconnections fournd that  “New Niño” was better associated with GLOBAL telenconnections than was the “Classic Niño.”  So, most of us have moved on and scrutinize “Region 3.4” water temperature anomalies.  To explain, in what has become a lecture (is anyone left? Elvis certainly would have “left the building” by now) I use arrows in the sea surface temperatures below to point out where Classic Niño occurs and where the “The New Niño” one does.  They usually, though not every time, occur at the same time.

El Niños, as you likely know, are associated with greater chances of rain in the whole Southwest, along the southern Gulf Coast, and even folks in Saudi Arabia have some evidence that more rain even falls there in the winter when a Niño occurs!  However, its best, for these teleconnections to work out, to have a big Niño, like the ones in 1982-832, or 1997-98.

Map of the latest sea surface temperature departures from normal, this from just yesterday!
Map of the latest sea surface temperature departures from normal, this from just yesterday!

I don’t see much going on as yet, but my friend has access to stuff I don’t, like water temperatures lurking just below the surface that are about to rise to the top if the winds along the Equator all the way to Australia and beyond cooperate.  Note its cold as HELL in the “Classic Niño” area right now, but has warmed up some over the winter in the “New Niño” patch which is a good sign.

Been derelict in cloud photos lately, got relatives visiting.  But as weak troughs move toward us, they will keep the supply of Cirrus, Cirrostratus, and maybe some Altocumulus streaming by overhead for the occasional spectacular sunrises and sunsets for the next several days.

The End.


1You wonder if the “New Coke” would have done better if it had been called, “Coke 3.4”?  Sounds more like an solid advance in coke formulations, something I might want to drink, with numbers attached like that.

2Had about 30 inches of rain here in Catalina during the 1982-83 water year!  Dream about that one if you weren’t here to see all the water flowing in just about every wash imaginable in those days.   However, there have been some Niño duds here, too, like 2004-05, or 1976-77, ones that were associated with below normal totals here during the water year.

Updated Catalina climo data following the end of water year

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:

OG 2012-2013 WYOG period of record WY plot
OG summer rain through 2013

OG cool season precip through 2012-13

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:Eel_Nino

No “Eel Ninos” this winter… Darn.

The End.

Last summer Cumulonimbus sightings expected today and Saturday (use telescope)

If you were on Ms. Mt. Lemmon, or just in Tucson yesterday taking your wife to the airport for some reason, you would have seen a line of large Cumulonimbus tops lining the east through southeast horizon in a broken line.  It was pretty impressive, and demonstrated how close our summer rain regime still is, astronomically speaking anyway.

2:37 PM.  Distant Cbs dot dot dot the horizon to the east.  Photo taken while not driving; just looks like someone held a camera pointed out a side window while driving.  Its a niche I've developed.
2:37 PM. Distant Cbs dot dot dot the horizon beyond the Rincon Mountains to the east. Photo taken while not driving; it just looks like someone held a camera pointed out a side window while driving and also not looking to see how the camera was pointed. Its a photographic niche I’ve developed.  Lightning was being reported at Douglas at this time, too, though they did not add to their once-in-a-hundred-years summer rain season total yesterday.

There is still enough heat and moist air around for some small Cu around here, but that’s about it for today and tomorrow, though the Canadian model still thinks there will be some big enough clouds for them rain in the general area of SE AZ today and tomorrow.

But, just small Cu can produce dramatic scenes on the Catalina Mountains, much better ones than just a clear sky, so that’s SOMETHING to enjoy before the long clear days following the complete end of our summer rain season and the desiccating air that follows by Sunday and Monday.

About the most we can expect after the Cu are gone is the occasional appearance of CIrrus clouds once in awhile as storms in the westerlies track across the West, but to our north.

Next, I thought I would post a map of global ocean temperature anomalies for September 19th, in case you were thinking about going to the beach somewhere.  Seems like most of the ocean is slightly warmer than normal for some reason, except around Antarctica.

However, the hot spot we need, suggesting an El Nino might happen,  just isn’t there.  Kind of neutral or even below normal in the eastern Pacific along the Equator in the eastern half of the Pacific.  Phooey.  It was sad, too,  reading the Climate Prediction Center’s statement that the ENSO (El Nino-Southern Oscillation) alert system was “not active.”   I hope no one was laid off.

The presence of an El Nino, as you likely know,  can help jack up precip totals in the Southwest in the late winter and spring.  So, its likely that official predictions will be for another drier than normal cooler half of the year (October through May).

Gobal ocean temperatures on September 19th.
Global ocean temperatures on September 19th.












Will have some additional Catalina climo charts in the next day or so, maybe an erroneous personal prediction of the October through May precip like last year’s…hahaha, sort of.

El Nino may be in the works for next winter; stories from the field

Here you can read the latest statement from the Climate Prediction Center on the neutral conditions that have developed in the eastern Pacific Ocean–La Nina is gone–and what it sees for next winter from their computer models.  While things are not clear because they are so difficult to foretell, they are talkin’ El Nino some. As we know, the Southwest can benefit tremendously in rainfall when an El Nino develops, and so it is uplifting news to hear ANYTHING about an El Nino in the future and I though you would want to read that, too. Here you can see the last few weeks of global ocean temperature anomalies and how they are changing.

Why talk about next winter now?  We should always be looking ahead in life, planning retirement, vacations, what football games to attend next fall, the important things in life;  besides, there are no clouds to talk about, only hot air currents, maybe a dust devil, so I need some filler material.  Remember when newspapers used filler material to make columns come out even, add some little fact?  Those were great.

Too, I may have to dredge up some “stories from the field” to fill in the boring gaps in weather we have today, like that time they almost rolled over our VW microbus on that big boulevard in Madras (now Chennai), India, in August 1975.  That big boulevard was reserved that day for the funeral parade of freedom fighter, Kamaraj, (against the British) with Indira Ghandi leading it.  We should not have driven on it.  Hundreds of thousands of people lined that boulevard for miles that afternoon! You would not have believed that scene!

The crowd.   What I look like when I am in India (on the right)

I am still white-knuckled thinking about our knuckle-headed project leader who thought it was going to be OK to drive on that funeral route so we would get back to the hotel faster.  He ordered our driver to go onto that boulevard, and then told him to,  “just wave at the police”,  guarding the route as we drove down it.  We were returning from the Madras airport at Meenambakkam where we had been on standby to seed some clouds if they developed over a nearby reservoir catchment area.    We were the only vehicle on that boulevard as the people waited for the official parade.

But then some of the crowd, maybe just a dozen or so, took exception to our driving down that boulevard and rushed our microbus.   Our driver, sped up and slowed down in spurts, swerving left and right as well trying to shake people off his van.  And the ones trying to climb on it did fall off, thank god, but fortunately no one was injured (or run over!)

In another bit of luck, the windows of that microbus were completely opaque due to heavy condensation on the inner surface of the windows, and so the crowds could not see that it was three Anglos in the back of that damn bus violating that boulevard.  Heart pounding now as I relive that drive.

A bit farther, the driver somehow found a side street among the crowd and drove ever so gradually through all of those people lining the boulevard and finally onto the side street he knew was there.

That was an awful thing to have done and still regret being a party to it.  But, somehow, too, my life was spared so I could write this blog in Catalina, AZ.  Interesting.  It better be good!

The latest map below (May 9th conditions) shows that the “warms” have it overall in the global oceans, and what’s important for us is that the cooler-than-normal water in the eastern half of the Pacific along the Equator (representing La Nina conditions) has dissipated.

For comparison, shown this map for May 9th is one for February 1st conditions when our La Nina was holding forth.  Note the below normal temperatures along the Equator westward from South America across the Dateline on that map, and then look to the new one.

So there are no strong forcing factors at present to alter our climate from “normal.” Still means that the weather machine will continue doing its thing, hot, cold, rainy, extremes, etc., but there won’t be a dominant pattern, the kind that leads to a greater chance of drought in the Southwest and southern states as La Nina’s tend to do in late winter and spring. Yay!  Summers don’t seem to be much affected by either of these conditions.

 The Big One, that giant trough, is still on the way for implantation in the West, but only wind projected here

Dang.  No rain.  Likely we’ll hear about low temperature records in parts of California, Nevada, the Pac NW, extreme winds at various places, and hot and windy conditions here and in the Plains States.   Very little rain is projected out there as well, at least in the early going of this enormous trough and low system.  Starts affecting us on Wednesday; the TEEVEE weather presenters will be all over this one!