Category Archives: Weather

El Nino Conclusion: Godzilla Got Tamed

We were told by every weather prognosticator this side of Toyko, that 2015-2016 winter season would be one to remember as the Godzilla of all El Ninos bore down on the Golden State. The result? Meh.

Godzilla is leaving - was he ever here?

Godzilla is leaving – was he ever here?

With the middle of spring in California, the forces of nature turn as the winter half of the year gives way to summer-type weather. The current week should offer up everything, with highs already hitting the 90 mark. Lows have been in the 30s, which isn’t unusual this time of year. By Friday, wine country should see a bit of rain – something we haven’t had a tremendous amount of, even though El Nino was suppose to rage with a wrath of moisture.

Not much to talk about

We noted three months ago that winter had done its usual thing, but no big rains had come our way. The same forecasters who bellowed about El Nino coming out of the sea with monster like vengeance, proclaimed March would make up for a less than destructive Godzilla. But no, there wasn’t much to say about wet weather last month other than a sprinkle or light shower here and there on the Central Coast. As April wanes, so does the intensity of rain and ultimately, this year likely will go down as nothing more than a typical season of weather … at best.

The warmer-than-normal Pacific Ocean, that is suppose to fuel El Nino’s watery devastation, is fading away. In fact, folks at the National Weather Service see a distinct possibility of La Nina moving in next fall. La Nina is El Nino’s alter ego where the surface water temps switch to cooler than normal and in-turn creates colder and drier than usual winters in California.elnino-lanina

Rain, but enough

It should be stated that our Californian brethren to the north have received above average rain, which is good for our reservoir system. However, the Sierra Nevada snow pack, where we get a majority of our water from, did not quite reach their average, especially in the central and southern sections.

Weather people got it wrong again and with it the drumbeat of drought will continue in wine country. Conserving water will persist throughout the coming year, which would make five straight years of deficient water capacity in California.

As I’ve mentioned before and Blue Oyster Cult put simply and accurately:

“History shows again and again
How nature points up the folly of men”

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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MidWinter El Nino Update

A lot of ominous story lines were written about the coming monster El Nino for the 2015/2016 winter season. Those of us in drought-stricken California were bracing ourselves for an onslaught of rain that may not have had an equal. Well, there’s a bit of good news and bad.

Cold – No big rains

In Paso Robles, we awoke to plenty of icy conditions in December of 2015.

In Paso Robles, we awoke to plenty of icy conditions in December of 2015.

The good news, to some degree, is the otherwise normal winter we’ve had here in the Golden State, especially in wine country on the California Central Coast. December started off with its usual cold snap that had us regularly in the 20s with several icy mornings. Day time high temps hovered barely in the 50s, but otherwise there was a little cold rain here and there – that was it.

As the holidays slid by, the temperature started warming up and with it, more rain. It might sound counter-intuitive to think El Nino and its rains would drive temperatures up, but rather than getting storms from a normal northwesterly track out of the Pacific Northwest and Canada, El Nino draws warmer climes from the Central Pacific. By the way, our mountains – the Sierra Nevadas – have been hammered with snow this season, which is definitely a good thing, considering Californians get a majority of their water from the mountain snow runoff.

This is suppose to be a huge El Nino year, however it hasn’t been the typical drum beat of a driving rain storm after driving rain storm. We have received an average amount of rainfall, which has made it easier on the land, so as not to wash away and erode the farms and vineyards of its valuable soil.

Currently, we just had a mini gullywasher and are expecting showers near the end of the week. Yet, the last week of January looks relatively warm and sunny with highs possibly reaching 70. Heck, get the suntan lotion out, it’s summer! Yeah, not so fast.

About that bad news

Godzilla

As January folds into February, which is our wettest month, there are plenty of signs the Godzilla of all El Nino’s is coming onshore. The first full week of 2016 saw a modest set of back-to-back storms reminiscent of El Nino. According to NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory climatologist Bill Patzert, the the rest of winter and likely the first part of spring are going to bring us monster rains (source: L.A. Times). Or as Mr. Patzert puts it of the earlier storms:

“That was a trailer for the movie.”

Essentially what will be happening is the jet stream will come down on to the southern half of California and started sucking every storm from the Central Pacific and tropics in what we call the ‘Pineapple Express’. Think of it as a river of storms pulling moisture all the way up from Hawaii to California.

Whether we receive the predicted record-breaking numbers of rainfall with help from the Pineapple Express, remains to be seen, but regardless, we will see an increase in precipitation over the next couple months.  And with that, should tamper down the drought conditions along with greening up our beautiful rolling hills of Paso Robles.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of rain – I grew up in L.A. I’d look terrible in heels, so I’ll clink my beer mug or wine glass because I’m thinking suntan lotion … I’m thinking there’s no time like summer, there’s no time like summer, there’s no time like summer.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Godzilla, El Nino … And The Blob?!

“History shows again and again
How nature points out the folly of men”

I’ve had this ringing in my ears for almost a month after seeing Blue Oyster Cult sing one of their big hits “Godzilla” at the Mid State Fair. No, this isn’t about classic rock groups or ‘B’ movies, but instead the irony and how true it rings now that the supposed Godzilla of El Nino’s sits out in the Pacific, ready to emerge once fall is in full force.

Godzilla

That’s what the weather experts are calling for this coming season (source: L.A. Times) and therefore we may see the rainiest El Nino on record. Of course, predicting nature and weather, even among scientist, is little more than a bad game of dart throwing. Still, from every corner, we’re being told that after having one of the worse droughts on record, we may end the drought with the most massive subtropical moisture driven winters ever. This may be worse than any ‘B’ movie can conjure up.

The National Weather Service states every computer model now has the Southwestern U.S. staring down the barrel of a big El Nino late this year. It likely will last through early spring. Whether this all comes to past is up for grabs since the history of nature has a tendency to show us again and again the folly of forecasting weather – it’s never been an exact science.

“With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound”

Certainly this summer has been influenced mightily by the warm waters off our California coast. We’ve had monsoonal flow from Arizona all the way up here in Central California. The Godzilla of summer storms hit California in July bringing the remnants of Hurricane Dolores right to our doorstep, causing terrible damage. There was terrible sounds of furious thunder and lightning, plus flooding and mudslides after heavy winds and three-and-a-half inches of rain fell – most of it in less than a couple hours.

Godzilla Versus The BlobThe Blob

Not to be outdone – with another ‘B’ movie reference – we also have the ‘Blob’ to contend with. Nicknamed the Blob, it’s a warmer than usual body of water that may have contributed to pulling Dolores further up the Pacific Coast. It sits in the Gulf of Alaska and although much more shallow than El Nino as far as the depth of warm water is concerned, the Blob brings an X-factor to weather forecasters.

The farmers, especially grape-growers, don’t seem as apprehensive since the vines are dormant during winter. Frost is usually the big concern in early spring after bud-break, however, if this powerful rain phenomenon should continue into spring, diseases like rot and mildew can wreak havoc with vineyards. Dolores was relatively quick, but a constant drumbeat of incessant downpours are a trademark of El Nino. If El Nino should make a premature arrival in early fall, wet weather can also ruin grapes prior to harvest; but, this years early picking will probably dodge that pitfall.

The Blob’s warm waters off Alaska and Canada is a big unknown. A typical El Nino has only warm waters off California with cooler temps north. This year’s conditions though are more intense with bigger and deeper warm water. No one is sure how this will affect the normal El Nino pattern – it could bring storms farther north and moderate the impact, or it might exasperate the conditions and make for a monster weather system.

The truth of the matter is, the Blob could influence the Godzilla of El Nino’s, which in-turn may raise its ugly head and turn around, heading back into the depths of the Pacific. October is roughly the beginning of the rainy season in California and climatologists say the next several weeks will determine more certainty as to whether this prediction of a devastating rain pattern will actually happen. Until then, it’s something no one knows for sure.

“Oh no, they say he’s got to go go go Godzilla”

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Record-breaking July Storm In Paso Robles

“It never rains in California, but girl, don’t they warn ya
It pours, man, it pours”

That infamous chorus of words were never more true than when remnants of Hurricane Dolores came up from the Mexican tropics and dumped extremely rare heavy rains on generally the southern half of California. What a powerful and freak occurrence.

I don’t believe Albert Hammond’s’ 1972 song It Never Rains in Southern California had summer in mind, because essentially it never rains in California in the summer, period. Sure, an occasional monsoonal flow from Arizona sneaks in usually in late summer, but those rains do not make regular appearances except for maybe the Southern California deserts. Yet, rain in heavy amounts pummeled much of California.

Normally dry – Now Hurricanes? 

Here in the wine country of Paso Robles, measurable rain is even more rare, because our cool waters off the Central Coast stop any energy from generating strength to pull storms this far north. Plus, July is our driest month with an average of .1 inches of rain in a normal year. Except this isn’t a normal year as El Nino has made its presence felt long before winter arrives. And that’s how the moisture associated with a former Hurricane came to spew what energy it had left on the North County.

Hurricane Dolores off Baja as she approaches Southern California.

Hurricane Dolores off Baja as she approaches Southern California.

Paso Robles received over three and a half inches of rain on July 26th, most of which fell during a few early morning hours. Constant lightning and thunder hammered the area incessantly before, during and after the big rain event. Unprecedented, doesn’t do this occurrence justice. With ground dry as a bone, Dolores’ remnant moisture made its way everywhere and flooded any crevice, creating a mess. By the way, the former record for rain in the whole month of July is .59 inches. The record is as Mick Jagger would say: Shattered.

On a personal note, the rain devastated the backyard and part of the house. There’s a hill behind the house and the hard rain washed away anything it could including mud right into the backyard and patio, making for quite a muddy wet swamp. Shovels are at the ready as we wait for an insurance adjuster. The force of the storm was so ferocious, it actually ripped up a very small portion of the roof – but understand this is a concrete tiled roof.

All-in-all it was one of those rare infrequent episodes that reared its ugly head and decided the parched and drought-stricken California was a nice place to disgorge itself of massive amounts of water.

California drought over?

We pray for rain in the Golden State, and maybe we prayed too hard, because rain came in buckets over a very short period and wreaked a little devastation along the way. This may not have ended the drought, but indications are, it certainly could come to an end soon.

The warmer waters off the the coast created by El Nino have allowed monsoonal flows from the desert to reach us this summer with light showers or sprinkles, but this powerful storm did much more than that. Paso Robles was at the very northern edge of Dolores’ impact, but in the end, we may have received more of her fury than most. Also, this area is dry as a rule, but we’ve had a muggier than normal summer so far.

I don’t know if this will be a problem for the wine-growers, because one of the results of rain like this and humid conditions is mildew, which is an unwanted problem for vineyards.

If this is any indication of what we’re in for when the rainy season actually arrives, the California drought will be over and we may have other more pressing and damp problems to address. In the interim, as MC Hammer might say, it’s shovel time.

Additional sources: El Nino in History, Accuweather

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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The Futures So Bright, I Gotta Wear A Jacket

“I study nuclear science, I love my classes
I got a crazy teacher who wears dark glasses
Things are going great, and they’re only getting better
I’m doing all right, getting good grades
The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades”

… a jacket, galoshes and an umbrella. This twist on a one hit wonder song (by Timbuk 3), invokes what many in California – especially here in wine country – have been in dire need of: rain.

El Nino

Weather is hard to figure out for a simple one week forecast let alone, what’s going to happen a few months from now. However, from almost any quadrant of the weather world, experts and prognosticators alike appear to agree that a significant El Nino is here and later this year as we head into winter, heavy rains will drench California. The last time we had a powerful El Nino was a couple decades ago, and scientist feel 2015 and into early 2016, will be possibly bigger.

Now, 1997-98 was a bad year rain-wise, and was considered the most powerful in recent history. It wreaked havoc on a majority of Californians, especially in the southern half of the state. I personally remember many days in-a-row of rain in Los Angeles and Orange Counties that year. Often what happens is what we call the Pineapple Express, where almost a river of rain from the Hawaii Islands and the tropics just streams into California bringing one storm after another with no distinct breaks. Mudslides prevail, rivers overflow as do dams as well as street flooding that can inflict devastation. It’s not unusual to get a solid weeks worth of rain due to the Pineapple Express’ steady and incessant drenching.

Washed out track

The problem with hoping for rain – too much can devastate the area.

What is happening is a high air surface pressure in the Western Pacific (think Indonesia and Australia), helps to create a change in water temperatures with the Eastern Pacific along South America increasing warmth in their waters (i.e. Peru). Ocean temps here on the U. S. West Coast get warmer and right now that is evidenced by our waters here along the San Luis Obispo County beaches running a few degrees above normal.

All signs lead to rain

I’ve been told by weather folks that windier and warmer weather can result during the summer previous to an El Nino winter. Well, it has been windier and warmer here on the California Central Coast. We’ve also had a few monsoonal flow rain storms this summer that usually don’t appear until late summer if at all in Central California. Warmer waters aids in the draw of moisture from Mexico and the Desert Southwest.

The golden rolling hills of Paso Robles are tinder dry and in need of rain.

From every angle, it is becoming obvious that wine country here in Paso Robles is going to get their rain and then some. Still, what does this mean for the local citizens and farmers? Rain is needed first and foremost, so inconvenience, which may mean flooding and destruction can and will likely be heading our way. Once grapes are harvested in late summer and early fall, little damage can occur to the vines. Yet, fall and/or winter crops in the region may be in for more than they can handle.

We need the rain and from what the forecasters report (or guess), we will get it in droves. In the long run, this is a good thing, as California comes off one of their most severe droughts in history, which in-turn has ripped the state apart. Feast or famine seems to be the word of the day, week, month, year and even decade for those of us in California.

The future drought situation here in California looks bright. So get out the sunglasses because you better wear shades … while still possible.

Additional source: El Nino: Local Phenomena, Global Impact

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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http://pasowinebarrels.com/

Water Update: The Good And Not-So-Good

The three-year drought that has ravaged California and locally on the Central Coast, not only has the lack of water affected normal life, but also the politics have torn apart this otherwise quiet part of the Golden State. There are recent changes.

Legal rights restored … for now

First off, the good news is that property rights have been somewhat restored to landowners here in San Luis Obispo County. This week, the County Board of Supervisors has voted to let the temporary ordinance expire in August. The controversial law had banned property owners from drilling for their own water without an offset. This forced wineries to discontinue planting additional grapes. It also didn’t allow landowners to drill deeper when their wells went dry. Before this, they held the legal right to drill for water. Water rights restored is a start.

Nonetheless, the county is still moving headlong into forming a water basin district in the Paso Robles area. Last week, the same supervisors decided to continue proceeding with plans of creating a water district to control use of the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, which is one of the largest natural aquifers in the country. In concert with the State Water Resources Control Board, the district is set to be formed by the summer of 2017 – this new groundwater agency will impose requirements that likely will control water usage not unlike the temporary ordinance that will expire in six months.

Rain & conservation

With that said, the California drought is still bad and although fall offered hope with more than normal rains, winter hasn’t been so cooperative. Yet, currently there is a storm heading our way this weekend and should dump a decent amount of showers over the region.

The Governor, Jerry Brown, recently announced that Californians were reducing their use of water as per a report card of sorts (source: Capital Press). The State Water Resources Control Board had instituted water restrictions last year and although Brown wanted to see more cuts than actually occurred, the state is now taking more actions to manage the water situation. In short, this doesn’t look good for farmers, jobs or Californians in general – go here for more.

The drought isn’t as bad as its been during the past three years; and, a forecast for a wet second half of winter is certainly being looked on with bated breath.

So the news is mixed. Law will finally be restored for property rights even if the water district will likely take that all away in the future. The rain totals so far aren’t earth-shattering, however, rains in February are usually the heaviest of the entire year and March can also be quite wet … we can only hope so as the wet stuff is still foremost on everyone’s mind in wine country.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Paso Robles Weather

Some people love to hear about weather and others kind of shrug. Still, the year-round weather in Paso Robles is unique with a different take on four seasons.

The weather on the Central Coast of California is varied in and of itself. There are the somewhat damp and foggy beach areas with the cool Pacific Ocean holding temperatures down while the Santa Lucia Range keeps the inland areas such as Paso Robles relatively warm and dry.

The assortment of micro-climes within this region, especially for San Luis Obispo County, vary widely and make this entire area weather distinctive. For instance, the south facing beaches such as Avila Beach have their own tiny zones, being warmer by 10 degrees or more over their neighbors just south of them such as Pismo Beach. San Luis Obispo which is only a handful of miles inland from this same beach area, has some of the mildest weather in the country.

As the crow flies 30 miles north of the city of San Luis Obispo on the other side of the Cuesta Grade sits Paso Robles. Mild isn’t in its repertoire, with cool wet and sometimes cold temperatures in the winter, Paso ends up with hot dry summers … and heavy winds thrown in at times during the first half of the year.

Winters are cool and wet

Paso Robles Flurry

Although Paso is certainly cold enough in the winter, snow is rare.

The winter year starts off in January with mostly cloudy wet weather and cold temps of 20 and 30s for lows and highs ranging from 40s all the way to 70. February offers little change from January except maybe slightly more rain, but not quite as cold temperatures. March can indeed roar in like a lion with cool rainy climes, however as spring eases into the mix, wet weather lightens and 70s become more regular with lows in the freezing range rare.

With Irish-like hills everywhere and some vineyards starting to green up as well, April offers up a unique range of weather not seen with any other month. The temperatures have warmed regularly into the 70s with occasional 80s popping up for highs. Lows have crept their way up into the 40s. Daytime temps bump up early in the day but strong fresh winds from the southwest blow cool air from the beaches inland and keep highs from being warmer than they otherwise would. By the end of April with its lively colors, showers are few and far between.

Windy season

Spring is often called the windy season for this region and May is no different. The difference from April though is the temps have notched their way up into 80s on a more regular basis – lows are still in the 40s. As the golden hillsides show up, June sees the incessant wind but potentially has the first 100s poking onto the scene. Lows are in the upper 40s to low 50s and the infamous Paso Robles diurnal can really show itself this time of year. For instance, personally I remember several years ago, a June day roared up to 106, but the low was 44 – a difference of 62 degrees. As a note, when in Paso, be prepared clothing-wise for wide ranging temps like this in a single day.

Summer in Paso Robles

July brings on the heat. 90s and 100s are the norm, with temps as high as 110 possible. The winds start letting up some by mid-summer and actually, August is almost a dead-ringer for July. Only difference between the two hot summer months is lesser winds for August. September ushers in some vague changes as the heat lessons slightly with more diverse highs ranging from 100 down to 80.

Fall starts hot but cools dramatically at year’s end

As the Autumn hues become vibrant, October starts off as a still warm part of the year, but ends with cooling temps that can see lows sporadically in the 30s. November strides in with cooler weather as highs struggle to stay in the 70s with lows regularly in the 30s. Thanksgiving has shown to be warm certain years with bright sunny temps, but then again, other years have seen cold conditions as winter makes an early entrance. With color gone from most of the Paso area, December is considered the coldest month of the year as the rainy season begins. Temperatures can see 20s for lows, and even teens can make an appearance. Highs range in the 50s and 60s.

That’s a trip around the year in Paso Robles. Winter offers mostly cold and wet weather transforming into a drier climate with a windy but relatively mild spring. Summer is hot and dry as is early fall before giving way to a cooler end of year.

Lately the weather has been dominated by a lack of rain with drought, and average-wise, temperatures have been warmer. Regardless, hope this gives a quick synopsis of weather in wine country on the Central Coast.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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