Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Swing in the Forecast; A Bit of Warming on the Way

A change of pace from the last set of forecast. The advertised storms for today, tomorrow and the weekend is a bust. Or, sort of. There is a storm sitting just off our coast on Thursday morning. And a fairly cold one to boot. But, it has temporarily removed itself from the jet stream and almost closed off. The result is that it is drifting south, instead of moving over land. Plenty of rain today and Friday, just north of the Bay Area, where the storm is sagging onshore.

As the storm slowly drifts southward, we will begin to see rain on Saturday. Eventually, this storm is to be picked back up by the jet and move eastward. Bad news for us snow hounds. If this system had moved over the area as previously forecast, it would have been a bulls eye for the Tahoe Basin. Instead, it will drop a lot of its moisture on the coastal ranges, and get a bit too far south, before moving over the Sierra. We can expect a few inches up in Tahoe on Saturday, but not much more. the good news is that freezing levels are expected to lower down to the lake, so we will get a bit more snow up on the peaks.

And that Big Halloween storm? This one looks like it will be mostly to our north in good La Nina style. Again, the areas north of the bay can expect plenty of rain, and some of that lingering into next week. We have a chance of rain down here, and snow in the hills, but expect a limited amount of precipitation. Alll in all, another wet and cool weekend is on tap. October has really delivered the weekend warrior with blah weather. OTOH, we have had a record breaking October for rain fall - which need I remind you is a very good thing. Has anyone noticed all the new growth out there. The hills will be green nice and early this year.

Now, for the good news. The cold air in Canada is headed east. A large trough is to form Monday on the east coast, pulling cold air south. The result for us is a large amplification (think sin wave, for you mathematically inclined folk) and very warm weather. Highs in the 80s in the Bay Area the first half of next week. Get out and enjoy it while you can. The long term models are suggesting another system may come into the region sometime between Thursday and the first weekend of November. To early to tell if this one will slide by to our north or hit us squarely. But, it does look like the Pacific storm door will open after a few nice days of living under a blocking high pressure.

Surfers, rejoice - or hunker down. A very big swell is expected coming soon. First, for the next few days, we have S/SE winds preceding the rain. Swell should jump up again on Friday into Saturday. Things should settle down, until Tuesday. On Sunday/Monday a large storm is projected east of British Columbia. This baby could send us 20 foot long period swells beginning sometime on Tuesday. Be careful if you venture out. And for the non-surfers; stay well clear of the water. this is the type of event that has the potential to sweep on lookers off cliffs and rocks, and to a very non fun experience. California experience several deaths of this type annually.

Our Fava Beans are breaking ground and looking happy. As is the chard and choy. Many of our summer plants are done, but a few squash plants are holding on. Get your garlic cloves in the ground over the next four weeks. Now is still a good time to put in some winter seedlings, especially with a few warm days expected next week. That ground is still wet, but with the chill of the past few mornings, I don't expect much of that warmth to still be there. Persimmons and Pineapple Guavas are showing up in the markets. Apples and Tomatoes are still around. As are a few stone fruit. This has got to be the best time of year n these parts. Color abounds.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

More Rain and Possible Dropping Temperatures to Come.

We got a pretty good dousing here in Santa Cruz this past Sunday. Looked like almost half an inch of rain fell in town with almost an inch in Boulder Creek. I sure enjoyed it, and felt smart because I decided on Saturday it was a good idea to clean out the gutters before all the pine needles got wet. The water was well received by the ground; it fell light and steady for about four hours, and not much ran off. Mother Earth was thirsty.

We had a bit of rain last night and a good flow this morning. . Each evening this week, we see an increasing chance of rain, further and further south through the Bay Area, and more so in the north and central Sierra. The greatest chance of significant rain fall looks to be on Sunday night, but the entire weekend and next Monday look likely to have some sort of dampness in the air. The high pressure off shore will be the real determining factor; it is holding on to the end of summer, and is trying to force this series of storm north into British Columbia. Expect temperature to remain mild through this period.

Tuesday through at least Thursday look clear, with high pressure moving through California on its way east. We could see some slight warming during the week, with sunny weather. Expect windy weather Monday into Tuesday as we transit from lower to higher pressure. Wednesday could turn out to be the nicest day of the week.

The real news still looks to be hitting the coast some time over Halloween weekend, possible effect our weather by next Friday. A significant through is forecasted form in the eastern Gulf of Alaska, reaching as far south at San Francisco. The models keep bouncing back and forth about where this thing will end up. There is a good likely hood that the bullseye will be in the Seattle and Vancouver areas, which would also be in line with La Nina expectations. Still, it is too far out to tell for sure, and several models suggest a more southerly approach. Depending on land fall location, we could be in for sunny weather, light rain, or heavy rains. Time will tell.

So, the snow pack is still very slight and patchy in the Tahoe region, but there is still some of the October 5th snow sitting in dark corners. There was another dusting high on the peaks last night. As this weekend's system moves through, we can expect slightly higher freezing levels, perhaps down as low as 9000 feet. But, is the system shifts just a bit further south, which it may, we would get more rain in the bay and lowering freezing levels. Not a whole lot of accumulation is expected, but there is a slight chance that this system could tap into moisture from across the Pacific. That would be nice. As for the next system, it is still too hard to tell. But models are still suggesting cold air pulling out of the north in early November. Of course, a few others suggest a big ridge over the west keeping us warm and dry.

Surf looks to pick up through the rest of this week, and perhaps the next. The North Pacific is active, but local conditions may be stormy as early as Sunday. But, if you are hoping to get in the water, you should just head out there; it has been pretty consistent lately. Through the middle of next week, winds die down, and a fair amount of back ground swell is expected.

And how do our gardens fair? We have the first bits of this winter's attempt at fava beans just breaking the surface. It is very exciting, and we are hoping for a bumper crop, as long as it does not get too cold. This is a great time to start some plants, as we shift between rain and sun over the next few weeks. the ground has been wet (or wetter than it has been since June) this past week, but the soil is still warm. Think lettuces, chard, kale, peas, spinach, broccoli and the like. We are looking for some Brussels sprout seedlings if anyone has seen them around. I have a feeling about this winter. And think garlic. Over the next month is the best time to get those garlic cloves in the soil and forget about them. You will be so happy in June when you are pulling those rich flavorful bulbs out of the drying soil.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cooler Weather, and Possible Rain... On The Way

Hope you all have enjoyed the little bit of Indian Summer that we have enjoyed over the past week. October has been an interesting mix of hot and cool weeks. Over this coming weekend, we can expect the daily high temperatures to drop up to 15 degrees by Monday. The difference will be felt less on the coast, as the marine layer began moving in last night and started the cooling trend a bit early.

Of note is the slight possibility of showery weather on Sunday evening, with heavier rain possible north of the bay. The Sierra could be hit a bit harder with up to 3/4 of an inch of rain Sunday into Monday. Expect relatively high freezing levels with this storm, so don't expect too much in the sense of accumulation. Just be prepared for a bit of wetness, and perhaps leave home a bit early on your Monday morning commute.

Of greater interest is the possible weather pattern approaching the California coast sometime between the 21st and the 27th. The storm corridor looks to be opening and the first true rains will slam into British Colombia as early as mid-next-week. Depending on how the jet stream aligns, we can expect rains in Washington, Oregon and northern California sometime after next Friday. It is still too early to say for sure where the rain will go, but it is looking pretty good for rain somewhere on the west coast from the 21st until early November. Best bets have the rain dropping into the Bay Area around the 27th of October and lasting through the Halloween weekend. Then it is likely for cold air to dump south out of Canada. Great set up for some snow making in early November, and maybe for the first early start to a ski season since 2004. Fingers crossed.

Over all this winter looks to be effected by a La Nina pattern. This usually means heavy precipitation in Washington and very little in southern California. The Bay Area is right on the line and can go either way, but looking are older statistics of La Nina following El Nino years, we are expecting about average rain fall and and colder than average temperature (and yes, this means greater than average snow fall).

Last season, we continued with copious amounts of rain in April and May. we shouldn't expect that this season. Most of our water will be here by March. OTOH, October is already way above average for the Tahoe Basin, so we have a good start. Let us hope for as much as possible, because last year was the first season in many that we had about average rain fall, and the state really needs the water.

What will all of this mean for your gardens? Cold weather and heavy rains (remember we are expecting average rain fall, but all of it coming by March) can be a hard mix for many of our tender winter crops such as lettuces. Even the hardier kales don't like the heavy rain so much. Be prepared for lower supplies of leafy vegetables. For us backyard gardeners, it is a good idea to get your winter crops in early so they have a chance to become a bit more established before the real cold weather comes. What are you doing this weekend? And don't forget that if the weather looks particularly cold and brutal, floating row covers and mini plastic green houses can make all of the difference.