Pretty and eerie skies yesterday; let the rain begin today

Here are some examples from yesterday’s pretty, then toward evening, eerie skies with sprinkles, the latter due to backlit Altostratus opacus mammatus, to go the whole nine yards, an icy cloud with downward hanging protuberances that resemble something.  I’ve reduced the size of that image accordingly.  Below, in sequence, 1) Cirrus, 2) Altocumulus, 3) the incoming bank of Altocumulus with Altostratus clouds on the horizon late yesterday afternoon, ones with virga and mammatus; 4) the mix of Altostratus with virga and mammatus with Altocumulus after it got here, and finally, 5) that eerie scene last evening of what I would surmise was a sunset colored layer of Cirrus above the Altostratus clouds with mammatus that gave the Altostratus an orangish tint.   I seem to be thinking a lot about mammatus formations today.   Hmmmmm.  Oh, well the CLOUDS were nice, and I guess you might say, our official cloud names a little suggestive.  For the full fascinating day, go here to our great U of A time lapse movie for yesterday.

All of these clouds are emanating out of and around a low that a week ago, in the models, was supposed to have already gone by.  Well, what’s left of it finally goes over us today, kicked out of place by a quite rudely interjecting jet around a cold trough in the NE Pacific and over the Pacific Northwest.

Here is a satellite loop from the University of Washington showing those clouds that went across yesterday and those similar versions that will be crossing our Catalina skies today, ones that are coming deep out of the tropics.  You’ll want to crank up the speed button to really see what’s going, at the upper left of this loop.  The mods have been seeing a bit more moisture with this upper level low  (doesn’t show up on the surface maps at all) as time has passed and so maybe we can wring as much as a quarter inch out of it.  Here’s what the U of A Beowulf Cluster has to say about the incoming rain amounts.  These amounts, up to an inch in the mountains, would be fantastic and very satisfying considering the long dry spell.  The best chance of rain is overnight, so we’ll have lots of pretty clouds, probably a lot like yesterday, during the day before the really thick stuff moves in.


The ominous aspect, though VERY exciting to us stormophiles, is, when you review that satellite loop from the Washington Huskies Weather Department, is the accumulation of clouds and storms in a long belt just north of the Hawaiian Islands.  Take a look!  In just a couple of days, those clouds and storms will begin streaming toward the West Coast like a dam breaking, impacting most heavily, northern California and Oregon with tremendous rains.  You will certainly read about those rains!  From experience, I can tell you that the most favorable mountain sites for rain will likely receive 20-30 inches of rain in just a few days as this pattern develops and matures with one strong low center after another racing across the lower latitudes of the Pacific under the soft underbelly of a blocking high in the Bering Sea.

Man, I want to be in the King Range/Shelter Cove area so bad!  Let’s see, fly to SFO now, rent four wheel drive vehicle for forest back roads in the King Range, bring rain gauge, sleeping bag, tent for camping out and listening to 1 inch per hour rain intensity on tent roof.   Hmmm…..  Its doable.  Maybe all of us should go there today, get set up, and then wait for those pounding rains with 50 mph plus winds.  That would be great!

And the ocean waves will be something to see, too, along the Oregon and northern California coasts, thundering surf really.    Been there, seen it.  And believe or not, there are surfers who come to the West Coast for just these situations, the long tropical fetch that generates huge waves.  And there is even a small cadre of folks who race to the coast just to see that thunderous surf.  All very exciting.  Well, kind of getting distracted here, and a little nostalgic.  Those big rollers would look something like this.

 Also, since I have doubtlessly piqued your curiosity about Shelter Cove and the King Range, below a shot of the King Range from Shelter Cove, a shot in the King Range, looking toward the highest peaks, and finally, an example of the people of Shelter Cove.

Now, where was I concerning Catalina?  Oh, yeah, mods have more rain ahead, though we’re only sideswiped by the powerful storms affecting Shelter Cove.  Best chance for the next rain is on the 21-22nd.

In sum, today’s focus, or more accurately, preoccupations?  Mammatus and Shelter Cove, CA.

The End.


By Art Rangno

Retiree from a group specializing in airborne measurements of clouds and aerosols at the University of Washington (Cloud and Aerosol Research Group). The projects in which I participated were in many countries; from the Arctic to Brazil, from the Marshall Islands to South Africa.