October 19, 2021

Saving California

 California has experienced a very dry year, with the precipitation since January 1st well below normal in most of the state, with particularly dry conditions in the northern portion where several of the big reservoirs are located. Some areas are down as much as 15-20 inches!

And not surprisingly the reservoirs are generally quite low right now,  with a number down to roughly 35-40% of normal (see below).   Not good.

Making the situation more worrisome, a La Nina is a near certainty for this winter, which generally produces drier than normal conditions over central and southern CA.

But sometimes the atmosphere does not follow persistence or the expected playbook, and at least for the next week, the northern part of the Golden State is going to be hit hard with rain.  It may be called the Sodden State.

To give you some insight into this situation, below is the latest ensemble forecast from the highly skillful European Center modeling system fortotal precipitation over the western U.S. for the next 15 days.

Wow.  Not only is BC and Washington wet, but northern CA gets as much as 12-14 inches.  That would make a huge difference, helping to refill the reservoirs.

And the UW WRF model prediction of total precipitation for the next week is also wet with huge amounts over the Sierra Nevada and northern CA.

Not satisfied?  The 46 day precipitation anomaly forecast (the difference from normal) through December 3 shows a MUCH wetter than normal autumn over northern CA.

Now if they only would stop wasting water in agriculture (like 1 gallon used PER ALMOND), the water situation might stabilize down there.


And I know you are curious about our big storm offshore.  It is still coming to our offshore waters on Thursday.  Here is the latest forecast from the European Center for Thursday morning.  Around a 955 hPa low.  Impressive


The Second Edition of My Northwest Weather Book is Now Available!

My new book is greatly improved and expanded over the first edition, with new chapters on the meteorology of Northwest wildfires and the weather of British Columbia.  A completely revamped chapter on the effects of global warming on our region.  And it has been brought up to date with recent weather events and the imagery is improved greatly.

Where can you get it?

Local bookstores, such as the University of Washington bookstore.  The UW Bookstore has just received several dozen copies.

Or secure a copy from the publisher:  UW Press.

Or Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park or Seattle.

And yes, there are online sellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


  1. I grew up in California and its been really sad watching the state fall apart. The last few summers there has been months of smoke/bad air quality this didn't happen when I was a kid there were a few smoky days each summer at most. I also remember a deep snowpack above 6,000 to 7,000 feet and many good ski trips where snow banks were taller than the car. Between rain and drought the ski resorts have struggled in recent years. When I left the state in January 2014 I remember driving over 8,500 foot Carson pass and seeing only a patchy dusting of snow. My mom complained about having to hand water because her sprinklers were broken and as a minimum wage janitor she couldn't afford to fix anything, recently the state has been so low on water she has been encouraged not to water/let plants die which she likes. I read an article where California's average rainfall is staying about the same but its getting drier because the higher temperatures are causing more evaporation and the rainy season is getting shorter where it used to rain October thru May now its more like Nov thru Apr. California's farmers have used groundwater to make up for the lack of rain in recent years but the groundwater is starting to run out so I have a feeling California will do much less farming in the future which isn't good they grow alot of our crops.

  2. Excited for the wet and stormy weather! Also if you think it takes a lot of water for an almond wait until you hear how much it takes to create a pound of beef(1800 gallons per pound) ... Or how much Nestlé is pulling from the state (58 million gallons allegedly)

    Anyways bring on the water!

  3. I find the best way to look at the crop water challenge is calories per gallon water.

    Beef: .7 kcal/gallon water
    Chicken: 1.0 kcal/gallon water
    Rice: 1.3 kcal/gallon water
    Almonds: 1.4 kcal/gallon water
    Soy: 3.1 kcal/gallon water
    Dairy: 3.4 kcal/gallon water
    Broccli: 6.3 kcal/gallon water
    Avocados: 9.8 kcal/gallon water
    Potatoes: 10.2 kcal/gallon water

    Beef is the real enemy here and should move to water rich areas (like the PNW coast) and away from deserts.

    For Almonds and other crops, introducing microirrigation and similar can improve crop water efficiency by at least a factor of two. Not much we can do for beef.

    1. Ah yes, the vegans, citing meaningless data with no regard for where the feed crops are grown and how they are watered. Enjoy your tofu. I'll be eating steak.

    2. What an odd and ill-tempered response. It's weird how this blog, ostensibly about regional weather, has so many hostile posters.

      I am asking in a good faith (as a Seattle progressive happy to acknowledge my lack of expertise), can you explain why these data are meaningless? Are you referring to costs and carbon burden of growing and shipping e.g. avocados compared to local beef?

      I am also a vegetarian but principally for animal welfare reasons. I have however assumed it was more environmentally friendly as well, but would be sincerely curious if that wasn't the case.

    3. Okay, this time I'll take the bait. I'll probably end up kicking myself, but we shall see.

      When the (fill in the blank) yammer about cattle, they focus on a couple things, starting with methane emitted when they belch. They ignore that a) methane is extremely short-lived, and b) we now have about 90 million beef cattle, vs. 60 million buffalo and 5 million feral cattle when whites moved west starting in th 1830s -- not a lot more.

      On the water front, they focus on irrigation of corn and hay. About 15% of feed corn is irrigated; about 3% of hay is irrigated. (USDA -- 85 million acres of corn for grain, 14 million irrigated; 51 million acres of hay, 3 million irrigated.)

      The vast majority of these crops are "irrigated" directly through a device known commonly as "rain." Thus, it's meaningless to focus on either methane or rain. I fully expect to have wasted my time -- see the Iron Law mentioned above. Oh, and in the West, where irrgation is more common, two-thirds is done by "microirrigation," which cehoward somehow seems to imagine is new.

      I expect

    4. No wasted time at all. This is a good reply and I respect the time that went into explaining your position. You even mostly avoided being needlessly rude.

      A few thoughts. One, really a semantic matter but I don't know if an increase of 25 million cattle from pre-settlement days is "not a lot more" although the emissions difference is perhaps fairly trivial, so ok I guess.

      Otherwise, even granting your points with respect to feed production not being overly burdensome, there are other environmental consequences to beef production e.g. land degradation, biodiversity loss etc. These problems may be modest in the US but are significant issues elsewhere e.g. Brazil.

      Setting aside methane and it's relatively short half-life (but stronger green house effect), it's my understanding that beef production does have a hefty carbon footprint too. Somewhere on the order of 20 kg of CO2 per kg of beef. This is considerably higher than other meats and vastly more than any vegetables.

      If you are arguing that cehoward's post was focusing on the wrong metrics when evaluating the impact of beef relative to other food sources, I understand that. But I am not sure the metrics you are looking at are ideal either.

      In all sincerity I appreciate your reply.

    5. Land degradation, it said, ignorantly. No knowledge whatsoever. The bottom line is that the Iron Law works. A progressive will always -- ALWAYS -- lecture, knowing nothing.

    6. An example. If you actually knew anything, or even cared, about water where most cattle are raised in the west, or "land degradation," you'd have mentioned it. Hint: Water and range degradation from beef cattle are nothing compared to much bigger issues. But hey, when you don't know anything and do nothing but deflect when you meet actual knowledge, well, let's just call it a well-trod path.

      As for "rudeness," two things to say. First, after the outrageous displays of violence from progressives over the last year and a half, it's outlandish -- to be mild -- to be called rude. Secondly, it's hardly out of bounds to call out what I'd term the aggressive, arrogant ignorance of people who time after time parade all of it as any kind of knowledge.

      By the way, are you one of those suckers who pays double for "sprouted grain bread," not knowing anything and not wanting to? Asking for a friend. Bottom line: You really don't know anything. Really. The integrity test is what comes next.

  4. Oh, and "microirrigation," it said, ignoring the fact that drip irrigation uses MORE water than traditional methods. Of course "cehowward" is a progressive, and there is an Iron Law: "You can always tell a Seattle progressive, but you can never tell a Seattle progressive a single thing, because they surely know everything -- especially when they know nothing at all."


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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