Category Archives: Stupendous storms

Joe the Transformer

“Where’s Joe?”, a new game for kids and adults.  I’m talkin’ “Joe Trough” here, that little big boy we talked about a coupla days ago that’s going to bash the West Coast now in a little over 48 h.  Try to find “Joe”  here.

Did you find him in the satellite clouds on these weather map?  He’s entering the scene, “stage left” as a hint.  If this was a silent film, there would very a dramatic and dark organ accompaniment at this time:  “Joe” is a villain, about to transform into a monster.   Yes, that’s right, “Joe” is a “Transformer”, to recall movies that we’ve all enjoyed where things turn into bigger things (I am so kidding here).   But, “Joe” WILL destroy some stuff in a couple of days.

For us little older weather-centric folk, it was obvious where “Joe” is.   Of course, I know you, too, are weather-centric, hungering for more information, thinking about quitting your current job to become a weatherman, “why did I chose my current profession in the first place?”, the kinds of things that TRULY weather-centric folk ruminate about all day.

So, I will tell you.  “Joe” is that comma-shaped cloud in the north Pacific almost due north of the Hawaiian Islands at this time (5 AM AST, 12 GMT today), and oddly, separate from and to the north of the long bank of clouds that stretch from Duckville (sometimes called “Oregon”, sorry Beavs) and northern California into the central Pacific and then on to Okinawa I think.

So, how do we know “Joe” will become a monster?  Our computer models are so good these days, they just never miss a situation like “Joe” is presenting to us.  All the ingredients are there, sharp air mass contrasts, STRONG  upper level trigger (“Joe Trough”) on top and approaching the long frontal band mentioned above, and starting to make it expand and swell up.  The most incredible thing to us weather folk, is that now, “Joe” doesn’t even have an eyeball (no low center) on these maps above and in the latest one below for 5 AM AST today!  I will show you that latest map with a “no eyeball Joe” below, it’s just a bend in the isobars (yellow lines of equal pressure); his power comes from above.  Soon, JT will cause the air to start wrapping around itself and a hurricane like eye-center will form out of what was just a long, almost straight band of clouds.



But look below at what the models say will happen in but 48 h! The transformation is into practically a cold season hurricane striking Oregon. Certainly hurricane force winds and pounding rains of several inches will strike northern California and the Oregon coasts in but two days.  There are so many isobars I can’t count them all, and, as you know, the more tightly packed a lot of isobars are, the stronger the winds.

Two things are exceptional about this storm, the time of year, and that its so far south with this kind of intensity.   Very rare to see such an intense low strike the West Coast south of Seattle at any time, but in late March?  Wow.

Look for some damage reports in the Pac NW and Cal beginning on Saturday.


Just some friendly, non-threatening Cirrus clouds (ooops, and maybe a lenticular or two since I just saw one–something we meteorologists call, “retrospective forecasting”–really helps your accuracy ratings…and here at 8:03 AM, seeing Ac cas with long virga trails.  Better predict those, too, now).

Not much else for the next few days in the skies, but we’ll get a part of the remnant of “Joe Hurricane” on Sunday.  Expect a lotta wind and dust in the air, and then a SHARP drop in temperatures after the dry (boo-hoo) cold front goes by.  Also, go here to experience more excitement at the Tucson NWS when it gets a bit closer.

The End.

The End is at hand…

…of the superbly pleasant days, that is.  Sure today and tomorrow, and Friday, with the except of afternoon breeziness that last day, will be quite nice.  Probably some Cirrus or Altocumulus clouds at times to make the sky look interesting.  You will still be able to brag to your friends elsewhere during these days about how nice it is in Arizona in the wintertime.

Below, an example of the kinds of clouds that might float by, yesterday’s Altocumulus clouds that appeared at sunset.  I’m sure you saw them, and recorded the event in your weather journal.  After all, it might indicate something and then later, you would be able to tell your friends that you knew that something was coming because you saw that cloud. Now, if you really have good eyes, you will see in this photo, a veil of ice that formed in the little sliver cloud that is farther away and to the left.  You really need to know about ice if you are going to be a good cloud person.

But by Sunday, you may want to go to Buffalo, NY, or Ottawa, Canada, to get warm after the cold front goes by.   It’ll be raining, maybe even snowing at some point.  Ski Catalina!  Its THAT cold in this mammmmmmmoth system approaching Catland that we are probably going to at least see some flakes in the rain Sunday or Monday.  (That my friend, is NOT sleet, dammitall!  Don’t let some silly weather presenter convince you that its “sleet” when rain and snow are mixed together.  Sleet bounces off the pavement; its frozen raindrops, ones that fell into a sub-freezing layer near the ground–takes about 2,000 feet  or more of sub-freezing air for there to be enough time for those drops to freeze, and typically, temperatures below about 28 F.)  Now, where was I?

Right.  Expectations are supremely high for this storm at this keyboard.  May set some storm precip records here in Catalina for the amount in 1-2 days.  I am expecting an inch of precip by Wednesday mid-day, but it COULD be 2 inches (water equivalent), that’s how much potential this storm has.  Almost certainly some of the rain will be accompanied by electrical displays.

Why so much confidence and take the chance that you will look very foolish if you are wrong in these extreme weather pronouncements?

This storm is, and has been, well-progged.   Remember that discussion about “spaghetti” a few days ago?  Now, only a few days away, this mammmmmmmmoth storm is “in the bag”; don’t even think about it missing us, even though its still more than 72 h before rain even begins to fall (likely sometime overnight Saturday).  You’ll have to deal with it.  Get used to it,.  You’ve seen it before:  the dust , the strong winds (at some point, probably more than 50 mph in a brief puff) Saturday or Sunday night and then the cold air and rain/snow.

Here is a sample from one of the best models, from our friends to the north, for Sunday afternoon when the storm is well under way in AZ:

Then,  once here, it moves VERY slowly, so that the duration of rain and snow will be extended.  Hey, we’re due for a break in getting a great, drenching storm. Poor desert spring weeds looking pretty sad these days around Catalina, which makes me sad.  Why can’t it rain more in the desert?

And with a trough of this magnitude (upper left panel of prog map) bringing such cold air down here, ahead of it,  east of the Rockies, extremely warm air will rush northward.  While low temperature records are likely to be set in the West by early next week, high temperature records are likely to be set in the East and probably in eastern Canada as well.

The folks at the NWS, Tucson, will be, and are, very, very excited, stimulated, really, by this situation.  So many advisories to be issued, so little time, when its upon you.  This is what we weatherfolk live for!

May hunker down for a couple of days, daydreaming about how great it will be.

The End.


A Stratocumulus Monday

Yesterday gave us “Catalonians” the perfect example of Stratocumulus clouds.   But why didn’t it rain from those dark clouds, save a few drops, maybe even a brief drizzle episode that mostly moved across Saddlebrooke around 9 AM?

Those Stratocumulus clouds were GENERALLY not cold enough at cloud top to have ice crystals form in them.   There were some very light showers, mostly east of us during the day, and THOSE clouds got cold enough at cloud top to have ice form in them.

How cold does a cloud top need to be in Arizona for ice to form in it?

Around 15 F (-10 C).

Here’s the TUS  5 AM AST sounding for yesterday from the Weather Cowboys at the University of Wyoming showing the tops are right around that (normal) ice-forming limit.  Where the lines split apart is close to where the cloud tops are, and the temperature lines slant downward to the left.

You may have also noticed that the clouds got markedly shallower here after about 3 PM, noticeable in the U of A movie after 3:30 PM AST.  That was also close to the time an upper level trough and the accompanying slight wind shift occurred.  To the rear of the trough, there is always a piston of downward moving, drier air that’s going to squash cloud tops.  By the evening TUS sounding, cloud tops were barely below freezing.

Some cloud shots from yesterday’s overcast:

Sharp-eye folks will detect a sprinkle over Charouleau Gap

The weather ahead

Still looking for rain here on the 22-23rd, HOWEVER, the last two model runs confined the rain to N of us! Not good.

Nor Cal rains/flooding episode begins overnight as a series of semi-tropical storms strike the coast.

Wish I could be there for surf and on the turf there, but I have my blog audience to think about. I don’t want to let both of them down by being gone for the 10 days of this great storm series, exploring the rain intensities in the coastal ranges of Cal.  Oh, well.

Still think total rains in the best coastal mountain spots over the next ten days will be 30 inches or more, actually not terribly unusual in the King Range and similarly exposed sites.

The Tucson storm passes by Catalina like so many other September storms

With continuous thunder and threatening skies for Catalina, the mammoth Tucson storm that dropped a record 2.83 inches for the wettest day ever in September at the International Airport passed by Catalina early yesterday afternoon.  Here’s what a fraction of it looked like (using a bad ISO setting, darn it).  Also at the TUS AP it has become the wettest September of record halfway through the month with over FIVE and a half inches!

Of course, we here in Catalina land have been missed by most of those heavy September rains and have had only a crummy 1.17 inches.  Still, better than nothin’.   And there have been some fabulous sights during these past days.  Below are a couple of shots from yesterday.  That easily visible roiling motion in that last shot, if you saw that Cumulus congestus-going-to-Cumulonimbus, was a real indicator of how unstable the air was, that is, how easily it could go upward yesterday.  This situation us due to the cooler air aloft we have right now, along with mid-80 temperatures at the ground.   This is the kind of roiling, churning action you see in those big boys in the Plains States, East, and South when severe weather lurks.

Mods think we have a chance for rain today, too.  Maybe it will be our time, we will win the rain lottery today.

Below, thanks to the U of AZ, we have a time lapse movie of part of the storm, anyway, to the right side of the image.

Dreamy weather ahead:

Of particular excitement in the longer range NCEP (“government”) models, although almost certainly wrong as they usually are that far in advance, is that a tropical storm advances toward Arizony in early October.  Mark your calendars.  Might as well.









Check this out for yesterday at 6:05 and 6:15 PM.  First, part of the precursor FULL rainbow to the east of Catalina.   (In most locales a rainbow to the east would mean the storm has passed.)  The second shot was taken at the height of this magnificent storm.  I thought I had seen it rain as hard as it could here, and with as low a visibility as possible  last summer.  But, no.   This topped them all!  Golder Ranch Road, only a few hundred yards north is gone, and I could hardly make out our horse, Jake, in his corral, only 50 yards or so away!     At this moment, too, the wind raged.  Everything was moving violently amid the occasional lightning strike.  The wind probably reached 50 kts (60 mph) during one of two of the violent puffs that came through at that time.  It was just incredible;  unforgettable.

The rain?  1.01 inches of which most (about 0.9 inches) fell in the first 20 minutes!  Lots of erosion apparent today in our modest gravel roads.  We’ve now had more that 2 inches of rain in only the first five days since the summer rains started.  Fantastic.   Even today, after only a few days with rain, there were traces of green at the bottom of otherwise dead looking grasses.  And, now some of the washes will start to run for awhile, too.

And, more days with strong storms here and there are ahead.  How great is this after our crummy winter?