June 11, 2023

The Northwest Will Soon Share California's Fate

 What has happened and is happening in California is extraordinary....one of the coolest/wettest ends of spring in Golden State history.  The cause has been a high amplitude and persistent trough of low pressure over southern California.  

Check out the latest upper-level (500 hPa, about 18,000 ft) weather map, with the shading showing the differences from normal (the anomaly).   Hugely lower than normal heights (a deep trough) are centered over the southern portion of the state (dark blue and purple) Huge in extent.   

Troughs are generally associated with clouds, lower-than-normal temperatures, and precipitation.   Interestingly enough, this California low pressure is directly connected with ridging (high pressure) and warm temperatures in southern Canada...and yes, the fires there.

What about this week?  Gird yourself...

By mid-week (Wednesday), a weak low center remains over southern CA (below)

and the crazy persistent low is still there on Saturday.    If you want warmer weather, head to the Pacific Northwest.  

Clearly, the weather gods are angry with southern California.

Precipitation?     Plenty over California and Nevada during the next few days thanks to the low center over California  (see totals through Tuesday morning).

Stunningly, more rain for LA and San Diego.

But in case, Northwest residents are getting smug, amused by the weather-gods vengeance on the lotus land of Southern California, the situation is forecast to change radically by next Sunday, with a VERY deep, large, and unusual low building over the Pacific Northwest (see below)     

A drought-buster if I have ever seen one, one that will bring substantial precipitation to the Pacific Northwest and southern BC.  And one that will push the potential for wildfires far into the future for us.


  1. This is one of the reasons why I moved out here over ten years ago - a moderate climate, no matter the season. Hope the forecasts come true.

  2. The dozens of shrubs and trees I planted a few weeks ago are very happy to hear this!

  3. Is it possible that repeated episodes of cool weather occurring here and there over the next decade will cool the ardor for Net Zero in the Northwest (NZITNW)?

    Or is it more likely that NZITNW, with its all but certain reduction in our supply of electricity, is a done deal regardless of what the weather actually does from one year to the next?

    1. Given what we've seen so far from the Climate Cultists, I have to assume your question is rhetorical.

    2. Eric, I keep a close eye on what the Northwest Power and Conservation Council and its NERC-charted oversight body, the Western Electricity Coordination Council, are saying publicly about the reliability of the western power grid over the next decade.

      It is my opinion that both of these councils are yielding to strong political pressures to understate the threat which the Net Zero transition poses to our currently reliable supply of electricity here in the Northwest.

      We are lucky in that we have a number of large hydroelectric dams which serve the region and which can act as load-following buffers in keeping the power grid stable in the face of the intermittency of wind and solar.

      Unlike what is likely to happen in California over the next decade, for those of us who live in the Northwest, the issue probably will not become acute until the late 2020's or early 2030's after all of the coal-fired power plants which serve the region have been retired, and after some number of gas-fired plants have been closed early without adequate replacement on a megawatt-hour per megawatt-hour basis.

      I like to be optimistic. On the other hand, the acute phase of a growing shortage of electricity here in the Northwest might come early if we happen to experience a series of low precipitation years, which are not at all unusual in the long-term weather history of the region.

    3. Bring on the electricity shortages. Maybe it might force us to get our epically large butts out of cars and give up on sprawl. Electric cars are still cars. The commute still stinks. Traffic is still traffic. Electrifying the vehicle fleet just means the pollution books get cooked while keeping it otherwise business as usual.The way we build doesn't effectively use the grid we have. So again, being it.

    4. Yes, I was reading about the abnormally low precipitation that hit the Columbia river basin, it lasted over three years (back in the early 80's, I believe). The OR Governor at that time (Tom McCall) had to issue an emergency in the middle of the crisis, enacting strict water usage controls across Portland and surrounding areas. There is only one solution at this point in time to closing gas and coal plants, but the powers that be won't consider it - and that's nuclear.

    5. In complete agreement as far as nuclear goes. Unfortunately, there is the usual NIMBY-ism, the expense and the fact that the US has lagged in the tech. The coal plants are going offline mainly because of their age, but the same is also happening to nuclear as well. The cost of maintaining all these Cold War Era plants exceeds just building a new facility. Banks won't touch coal and nuclear is only slightly less toxic for a lender. For a while, Gas and renewables are going to have to be a bridge, which is going to be a bit painful.

    6. One of the commenters here perfectly encapsulates the prevailing attitude among the Cultists. Screw the middle class and the poor, who typically have to commute long distances for their jobs. Why the long commute? Because they usually can't afford homes within twenty miles of their places of work. Worst example of persuasion you can come up with..."do as we say and screw off, peasant!."

    7. BAMCIS, rising prices for electricity, and a growing shortage of electricity, is a feature of the Net Zero transition, not a bug.

      Net Zero is a practical means of enforcing the energy rationing policies which are necessary for achieving the economic, the cultural, and the societal changes which climate activists wish to impose not just on the United States, but on western civilization in general.

      Eric, in the absence of low-carbon and zero carbon mandates, the power grid in the US would move decisively towards gas-fired generation, as it was doing before reliance on wind and solar was dictated by the politicians.

      As for nuclear power, it is strictly a creature of public policy decision making. We buy it for purposes of energy reliability and energy security, not because it is cheaper on the whole than is gas-fired generation.

      The immediate problem with building more nuclear here in the US is that our nuclear construction industrial base is in a deeply withered state relative to where it was at the end of the 1980's. A decade or more of hard work is needed to fix that most central of problems.

      The other major problem nuclear faces is severe competition for the industrial materials and resources needed to pursue the Net Zero transition.

      Growing competition for industrial resources from renewable energy projects worldwide will increase the costs of the steel, the non-ferrous metals, the rare earths, the concrete and all the other industrial items and components needed to construct a nuclear power plant. Just as it will for all the industrial materials needed for wind turbines, for solar panels, and for backup energy storage batteries.

      The NWPCC's five-year power plan published in 2021 calls for strong steady growth in the Northwest's reliance on wind and solar energy. IMHO, the NWPCC's planning assumption that the necessary wind, solar, and battery technology will be readily available at an affordable price when and where it is needed is a very faulty assumption.

      This most basic of problems, competition for industrial resources as the Net Zero transition accelerates, will become painfully apparent as the decade of the 2020's moves forward.

    8. I love that you guys frame your opposition to reducing carbon emissions as a matter of defending western civilization. Also funny to hear conservatives citing demand-cost cycles as problematic. Aren't you supposed to be the free market capitalists?

    9. Not really wanting to get into Culture Wars or Tin Foil Hat stuff. The carbon cycle is sound science. Burn enough polluting stuff and natural process is not going to neutralize it. EVEN with no mention of climate change or pollution, fossil fuels still are encumbered by being finite while facing the headwinds as a result of exponential growth of demand thanks to there being so many more people. Given the Ponzi nature of the constant growth economic model, this demand upon fossil fuels won't abate until all the easy to extract deposits are gone. So something really should be done to supplant them. Or, get the population under control. Fossil fuels are as much a societal issue as a technical one. At this rate we have about 100-200 years of known reserves of fossil fuels. That really isn't much time. We can figure out what comes next, or die back to a level (mainly by wars) that can support the retrograde towards candles for light and horses for transportation. Running into power shortages should maybe be a reminder that the situation needs more pragmatic thought past what climate activists preach. That is if we want to keep enjoying this outlier standard of living, since candles and horses were the standard for millennia before the Industrial Revolution.

    10. SYoung: "I love that you guys frame your opposition to reducing carbon emissions as a matter of defending western civilization. Also funny to hear conservatives citing demand-cost cycles as problematic. Aren't you supposed to be the free market capitalists?"

      It was the free market capitalist system operating in a western civilizational environment which allowed me to buy my all time favorite car, a 2010 Mazda 6 four-door sedan.

      I've had this car for thirteen years and it refuses to wear out. I've taken it places in the back country no one should ever take a car. It hasn't broken down and it hasn't gotten stuck.

      OK, I admit it, I have an attitude. The climate activists will separate me from my beloved Mazda 6 only when they unwrap my cold dead fingers from around the steering wheel.

      Now that the discussion has been properly framed .....

      The Biden Administration has yet to publish a credible, reasonably detailed plan of action for just how Net Zero can be achieved in the power generation sector by 2035.

      The reason Biden and his people haven't published such a plan is because they know it is impossible for the industrial supply chain to deliver all the renewable energy systems and supporting equipment needed to achieve their very ambitious emission reduction targets while still maintaining our current supply of electricity.

      Joe Biden and the climate activists who put him into office owe it to the public to be completely honest concerning the realities of Net Zero and therefore to acknowledge this very basic fact .... Net Zero by 2035 in the power generation sector requires imposing significant power conservation measures on the American people, measures which will have some number of painful impacts on our current lifestyles.

  4. Music to my ears. A wet June is always welcome, but especially this year

  5. Junuary is my favorite month. Looks like we may finally get that rain we've been waiting for.

  6. HURRAY for Junuary! I hope it comes true. The sun has been so bright, I miss my clouds. Saturday was wonderful with the cool and light rain. I want more please.

  7. Not going to happen. I predict showers on Sunday, a low in upper 50's low 60's then a rebound to normal temps and weather.

  8. It will be interesting so see if this comes to pass. Weather.com is going for ~50% chance of showers in the foothills and nothing east of the crest in Cle Elum, dry, a bit cooler in 60's but a quick rebound by 6/22 for ~76deg. Hopefully we get some rain, forests are already tinder box dry. We recently heard from the Fire Marshall that our neighborhood has the same risk profile as Paradise in CA. Pretty scary and with more housing developments being built deep in wooded areas there are more risk of fires.

  9. Wasn't that long ago that we would gripe about wet Junes with summer starting after July 4th. Maybe reverting to the (previous) norm
    Just got back from a CA trip to the parks in the Sierras. Thunderstorms most days, raging rivers from snow melt, and one day of thick fog. Definitely an outlier year. And lake Shasta was full, no bathtub rings.

  10. I would really like to see some serious, steady rain, lasting for a couple of days at least! I mean, when was the last time we experienced a lengthy period of rain?

  11. Hi Cliff, could you comment on or do a post explaining what conditions cause the formation of these prolonged toughs and ridges (omega block etc.)? Just wondering what governs how long they stay in place.

  12. The most recent forecast update from The Weather Channel/Weather Underground calls for just 0.44" of rainfall in the vicinity of BLI from now through 6/21 - a rather anemic amount that, if it verifies, will still leave that location with comfortably below normal precipitation for the month.

  13. I am not as optimistic as Cliff at this time about the upcoming change in the weather pattern pushing the fire season in Eastern Washington far into the future. However, if this signals a pattern change that will persist well into summer, and not just a short term break, so that we have no prolonged, warm, dry spells as in our previous summers, then his prediction may very well come true. It would be counter to the long range outlook which had predicted a warm, dry summer.


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

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