Sunday, October 27, 2019

Extreme Winds in California--and Soon in the Columbia Gorge-- Are Being Driven by Unusually Cold Air

It is perhaps a great irony.   

Winds gusting to 70-100 mph over northern California are contributing to a major wildfire and threatening more.  Nearly two million people have lost power.  The Columbia Gorge will soon experience hurricane-force gusts.

And it is all because of much colder than normal air moving southward east of the Cascades and the Sierra Nevada.

A Great Irony.  Colder than Normal Temperatures Produce This

To show you the cold air,  here is map presenting the differences from normal (the temperature anomaly) at 11 AM this morning.  Some locations in Nevada are16 to 24F BELOW NORMAL.

Another pulse of cold air comes in Tuesday and Wednesday.  Here is the forecast for Wednesday at 5 AM.   Makes me shiver to see it. Eastern Oregon and Nevada are 15-20 F colder than normal.  Idaho and Montana are 30-40F below normal. 


The colder than normal air east of the Cascades and Sierra Nevada results in higher surface  pressure there, since cold air is denser and heavier (surface pressure is a measure of the weight of the air above).  You can see the effect is morning (8AM), with the figure showing pressure (solid lines) and temperature (shading, blue and white are coldest).   Big pressure change over the Sierra and northern CA, producing strong winds.


You want to see something really impressive? ...here is the pressure/temperature forecast for 8AM Tuesday.  Wow.  Mucho cold air moving into eastern WA, eastern Oregon, and northern Nevada. crazy cold over Montana.  Notice the large pressure gradient across the Cascades? That will produce very strong eastern winds in the Columbia Gorge.

 To illustrate, here is the gust forecast for 11 AM Tuesday around the Gorge.  Winds above 50 knots are predicted (dark blue color).


On Wednesday morning (shown below), the cold air will push southward, setting up ANOTHER major Diablo wind event over northern CA and a MAJOR Santa Ana over LA.


Now several folks are talking about this event being associated with global warming.  CA Governor Newson said this in a press conference.    This is simply not true.  The vegetation is dry, like it always is, this time of the year.   And even if the grasses and bushes were wet, the air is so dry that the grass would be ready to burn in hours.  

How dry?  In several locations this morning, the relative humdities got down UNDER 5%.  Lots of places under 10%. Unbelievable.  This is due to the descending easterly flow associated with the current Diablo wind event.


During the past decades, cold air outbreaks have weakened, partially due to global warming.  And long term climate models show that global warming will increasingly weaken the cold air outbreaks that drives the strong easterly winds that drive CA wildfires in the autumn.  Global warming has all kinds of negative effects, but one of them is NOT the strong easterly flow that drives the big wildfires we have seen in recent years.  



45 comments:

  1. 1041? Do I really see a High Pressure center that will measure 1041 millibars sitting in the Columbia basin? I'm impressed! The highest ever recorded in Seattle was 1043, and that was in the 1920s. And it's only October.

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  2. So Cliff, do you completely ignore the role of solar activity variation in Earth's climate changes? Looks to me like North America is headed for its second long, cold winter in a row, amid one of the weakest solar minimums in 200 years. Is all of this to be disregarded?

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    1. The variation of solar radiation associated with changes in solar activity are quite small (tenths of a percent) and thus should have minimal effects on our regional climate. Just a very small effect.

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    2. The climactic effect appears to be North America-wide, at minimum. Elsewhere, I've read that, at the beginning of a flip from warm to cold or vice-versa, the impact isn't uniform until it settles in. There was a pronounced warming in the several decades before 1940, and then a pronounced cooling until the late 1970s.

      How about Prof. Valentina Zharkova's work on the issue? I am not a "believer," partly because it seems as doomsday-ish as the failed global warming predictions have been. That said, given her track record, I'm not dismissing what she has to say either. Have you come across the work, and what's your view of it?

      https://nextgrandminimum.com/2018/11/22/professor-valentina-zharkova-breaks-her-silence-and-confirms-super-grand-solar-minimum/

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    3. Or this data from NASA: https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20190028769.pdf

      It should be as obvious as gravity that the sun has the largest impact on our climate. But the Alarmists are for any cudgel they can use to bring about economy destroying Socialism.

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    4. Anyone who's ever experienced totality during a solar eclipse, and felt the temperature fall by 15 degrees almost immediately, knows that the sun is in charge.

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  3. Yes, of course this has nothing to do with climate change... unless you look at what is happening in Alaska and the Arctic.

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    1. The Arctic and Antarctic typically trade off; when one is warmer than average, the other is colder than average. Those who point to one ignore the other. The Antarctic is seeing major sea ice growth and record low temps in the interior.

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    2. That's incorrect and in any event temperatures at both poles are above average climatology at the moment (the Arctic and Alaska much more so). https://climatereanalyzer.org/wx/DailySummary/#t2anom and click 2m Temperature Anomaly.

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    3. Um, NASA begs to differ.

      https://neptune.gsfc.nasa.gov/csb/index.php?section=234

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    4. Fear surrounding Antarctic ice often suffers from the composition fallacy. Antarctica is a huge place, and we have very few land based measurements of the totality of Antarctica. Instead Alarmist Scientists study the Ross Ice sheet that extends out in to the Weddell Sea and is subject to geothermal and volcanic activity of the West Antarctic Ridge System and then extrapolate their findings back on to the totality of Antarctica where 98% of the continent is covered by ice one mile thick. It makes for great sensationalism, but there is no danger or appreciable change in the Antarctic Ice from 100 years ago. https://wattsupwiththat.com/2019/05/10/climate-data-shows-no-recent-warming-in-antarctica-instead-a-slight-cooling/

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  4. As always, thank you for the clear explanation of the dynamics of these events. Things got a bit crazy here in Sacramento yesterday as fires seemed to spontaneously pop up all over the place--and that wind was nasty. Mother Nature did her first serious round of pruning yesterday (lots of downed branches/leaves), and round 2 is expected tomorrow.

    Curious for your thoughts on the recent LA Times Editorial Board piece--and more importantly, if you know of any efforts by your non-propagandist (in any direction) peers to educate folks like that on the basics of California weather/weather history.

    Thanks again Cliff!

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  5. Cliff, I think you will find this California Wildfire Map by Year informative.
    https://projects.capradio.org/california-fire-history/#7.59/33.643/-118.223

    You can toggle the switch to any year. The link above is to 1970, a year as bad as any in SoCal, and there are some individual bad years in the 1950's too. The first widespread bad year I see in NorCal is 1987, then 1999 and 2008. There have been several during and since the 2012-2015 drought.

    If you go back to pre-1950 and compare to the "show all fires" button, you'll see that the footprint of pre 1950 in SoCal is a higher proportion of "show all fires" footprint than in NorCal.

    I grew up in SoCal and remember some of those bad fire seasons as long ago as Bel-Air 1961. Santa Anas have always been part of the weather picture here. I don't doubt that Diablo winds in NorCal are a recurring phenomenon either. But if you go through those maps for the northern 2/3 of the state, 1987 is the only year before 1999 comparable in area burned to several years since then.

    Do you have an explanation why the fire footprint in SoCal has always been significant, while in NorCal the fire footprint seems to have expanded in the past 20 years?

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  6. I’ve read (in articles like this: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/2018/01/03/climate/cold-climate-change.amp.html) that climate change may be producing frigid outbreaks like this by weakening the jet stream, which tends to bottle up the arctic air in the north.

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  7. I wonder how long it will be before people quit believing in the myth of man-caused global warming. How many repeated extreme cold waves do you need? Maybe by the 2030s people will come out from their delusion when all the predictions of "global warming" continue to fail? It's not science, it's just a dumb religion.

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    1. Is this a real comment? You have a professor of atmospheric sciences telling you that global warming is a real thing, and Cliff often is on the more conservative side of global warming, climate change, or whatever you'd like to call it. What I often wonder is why when there's one snowflake falling from the sky do I hear people acting like climate change is a joke and when temps hit 103 in the Seattle area they go completely silent? You can't pick and choose, you look at the longterm data and not specific events to decide if the climate is changing. Matter isn't created or destroyed, we have thrown a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere and it changes our weather and temperatures. We obviously need certain levels for us and everything else to survive around us, and we know what happens when the levels increase or decrease. I just don't get why it's considered still by so many to be made up. It's science. Thank god for the greenhouse effect, but it has to be kept in balance like everything in life. I think the biggest flaw in mankind can be our stubbornness to admit being wrong.

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    2. Andrew M, that's what your cult says -- until there's a warm spell or a hurricane. At that point, we get your incessant global warming lectures.

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    3. Long term data huh? How long is that long term data you speak of? Just curious.

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    4. The anonymous poster above who clearly has no idea about how basic weather works and how energy works....and also why climate and weather aren't the same thing.... is a fabulous example of why science education and literacy is necessary at all levels. Or it's a troll. I always wonder why some posters are more interested in trying to be inflammatory or derogatory than they are in anything else. Probably why that poster hides behind an "anonymous" label.

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    5. man think before you speak man that's your opinion on this topic weather is not a religion it never has, and global warming is not real if that is what you're saying i agree i'm a christian and its a sign jesus coming

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  8. Again this is real simple.

    RAIN=FIRE

    Yes a wet wet season make for vigorous vegetative growth. That all vegetation dries down to make fire stock.! Perfectly normal fire seasons are exasperated by wind events.

    Know on to climate change.________

    All of our fossile fuels are from a vegetative growth eons ago, when the earth was warm with a high CO2 atmosphere.

    Carbon is sequestered by vegetation that does not catch fire. Eventually cooling the planet.

    Yes we are warming the planet by burning sequestered carbon. That carbon (fossil fuels) is not part of the active carbon cycle.

    By the way.. Wild fire is simply part of the active carbon cycle.

    We humans are unbalencing the natural system by mining and burning fossile fuels.

    Ironically, our plastic problem is a way of sequestering carbon.

    So if we cant stop ourselves from mining sequestered carbon. At least turning it into plastic is a way of sequestering again. Haha.

    To me it is utter insanity to try and make a case that humans do not impact climate by releasing sequestered carbon into the atmosphere.

    The planets carbon cycle is easy enough for this uneducated simple farmer to understand.

    Keep up the good work Cliff. Society's greatest danger from climate change today is ourselves!

    Panic, extremism or denial are not solutions.

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  9. In today's paper , the NY Times says that there will be fewer shoulder season fires but more winter fires with climate change. Any reaction? https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/28/climate/santa-ana-winds.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

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  10. So in February you said Seattle and/or King County should buy all this additional snow equipment, and I said that would only make sense if, essentially, cold Canadian air masses became our new normal. Well, here's another, and like the one in February it's hanging around for a while. And was any of the summer's relative coolness provided by more cCams?

    Climatologically, it takes decades to decide that yes, the jet stream really has moved and we've become meteorologically Canadian. But how long before it's responsible to buy those snow ploughs?

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  11. Cliff,

    Did you catch wind of the -35F measurement yesterday morning from Peter Sinks, UT? It would appear that it constitutes a new record low temperature for the month of October for the U.S. between Canada and Mexico. I did see a few marginally cooler October temps have been recorded in the typically coldest locations in interior Alaska but nothing lower than -40F. It also seems like many of those old records are suspect due to instrumentation or siting issues.

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  12. Cliff- any opinion on whether these storms will eventually bring snow to the Sierra...or is the block set up to far east?

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  13. Hey again. I'm not sure this is the "great irony" that you say it is, Dr. Mass. The item below talks about unusual warmth in the Arctic right now, and a warmer arctic has been linked to a contorted jet stream, which in turn brings blasts of frigid air into the Lower 48. You discuss how this frigid air drives the Santa Ana winds. So, one wonders whether these record winds would be happening without a warmer Arctic, and whether the Arctic would be warmer without human-caused climate change. If so, there is no irony here, really. It's just not warm where one might expect, but it's still warm.

    The article I mentioned:
    https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/arctic-warm-spell-continues-from-september-into-october/

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    1. For God's sake, look at some history. Alaska has been through all of this before, cultist.

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    2. Name calling is a sign of weakness. Perhaps we could stick to data and argument?

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    3. I will take you seriously when I see you scold anyone for calling anyone else a "denier" or its variants.

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  14. This paper shows an undeniable link between Solar Fluctuations and Climate. The hubris of the Alarmist crowd is amazing. Here you have undeniable data https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20190028769.pdf that links past cold climate in Dalton and Maunder minimums to lower solar output. A time long before CO2 emissions. And currently, we are trending in to Cycle 25 with very low output, even with relatively high CO2 emissions. And yet the alarm bells for warming are still being rung.

    https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/grantham-institute/public/publications/briefing-papers/Solar-Influences-on-Climate---Grantham-BP-5.pdf

    Give it another 20 years or so. At some point it will become undeniable when after yet another minimal solar cycle, it really does start to get cold. At that point, everyone will look back and see the failure of the CAGW hypothesis and the propaganda from the likes of Michael Mann and James Hansen. Until then, politicians like Gavin Newsom and AOC are going to ride the Global Warming horse as far as they can. A they will have a lot of useful idiots on their side.

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  15. Cliff I remember you have been a proponent of proactively turning the power off to reduce the occurrence of fires in CA. What I don't get is why a little wind, OK significant wind brings their transmission lines down. We have wind storms in the PNW and almost never are transmission lines brought down. Seems like they need to harden their infrastructure down there. Could you or someone address this?

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    1. Mike, my guess is, it's broken branches hitting the lines, catching fire, and then falling on the ground- not the reverse.

      Which makes it a tough problem. You can't very will insulate a half-million volt line.

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  16. And another of mankind's biggest flaws is the belief in our assumptions and our certainty in our predictions for the future.

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  17. Dew point is 15 degrees in Bothell- just insane! I've never seen so polar an air mass in this area so early. A dew point this low around here in the fall means very cold nights.

    Goodbye growing season!

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  18. DR.Mass.
    Is it possible :-) that the people in harms way,of fire,or earthquakes, ca move to N.Dakota,where it is safer ?

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  19. Just a reminder to mountain travelers,Arctic cold air outbreaks during our shallow and spacially variable snowpack tends to produce weak base layers that can persist as deeper snowfall overlays that weak layer.

    This is a concern for future snow avalanche conditions. Of course it is weather dependent as a warm air mass or a high altitude rain event could produce a ground ice crust. That also can be a concern,especially over ground areas with little anchor support such as rock slabs.Or it could completely melt the snowpack.

    I remember when I was ridiculed online by a local guide when I suggested that it's helpful to know what the ground surface consists of in avalanche terrain and to take note of that surface during your summer time hiking season.Later correlate that knowledge to future observed avalanches and create mental maps from what you have observed.

    In Dec 2008, that guide who ridiculed me, took his two clients into a recent heavy snowfall and into avalanche terrain and one client was hit from above by a skier triggered avalanche and lost skis.

    The next day, the head guide and now avalanche instructor, was hit by a natural release avalanche in the very same area while looking for the lost ski.

    The Avalanche center had warned that it was not safe to travel in avalanche terrain during that time period and informed the public that it was the worst early season weak layer snowpack setup they'd seen in 20 years with the new heavy snowfall.

    Like I said, guides will take your money and take you into hazardous conditions because they think that they can Mitigate the hazard and they think that they know what they're doing.

    Far too many clients and guides have been in avalanches and many have been injured and many have been killed blindly following what I call the money bias. Ask any potential guide service that you are considering to employ to post their safety record online.

    I have to wonder why that information is not available to the public now. Posting Safety records should be part of the requirements to obtain a Forest Service special use permit in order to operate on our public land.


    Chris H.
    Heli-free North Cascades

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    1. Do you ever write any other comment other then repeated, recycled versions of the same story?

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  20. Colder than hell out here in the Columbia Gorge. This past spring was close to a month late, and fall was three weeks early. Oh, but that's weather and not climate. Let it be the other way around, and the global warming cult would be in High Lecture.

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    1. What if your wrong about global warming?

      If the those of us "global warming cult" members are wrong, we are still taking steps that will improve the envoirnmental conditions on the planet for all life forms. Unless of course you believe that coal emissiond,coal tar pollution and coal dust is paradise for those who live in that area and the planet? There are countless examples just like that.

      For example; Is it "best use" of public resources to use fossil fuel intensive use helicopters in the North Cascades just so a privileged few can get their weekly ego and adrenaline fix at the expense of a fragile mountain habitat and increased safety and health risk concerns to human powered Mountain recreationalists below?

      I just wish you were on our side as you appear to be intellegent and not afraid to speak out on issues of concern.



      Chris H.
      Heli-free North Cascades


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    2. What if you're wrong, and we spend $100 trillion like your cult wants us to, and drive up prices of gasoline, electricity, and heating fuel -- all for no reason? Must be nice to not have to worry about your cost of living, but not everyone is a rich "progressive" who can just wave his hand and say it doesn't matter.

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    3. I'm going to rescind the last paragram of my reply.

      Chris H.
      Heli-free North Cascades

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  21. Cliff, thank you for speaking the truth about the real cause of the wildfires. It's maddening to see the continued climate change hysteria for every weather event that takes place. Those not attuned to weather patterns see fire and automatically think the Earth must be warming. In actuality it's an anomalous cold air outbreak over Inland NW causing tight pressure gradients in CA, something less likely to occur as the globe warms as you point out. Any excuse to push an agenda I guess.

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