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# Friday, January 20, 2012

HPC 5-Day Precipitation Forecast Issued Friday Afternoon, January 20, 2012 Click
HPC 5-Day Precipitation Forecast
Issued Friday Afternoon, January 20, 2012

Last Sunday's upper level low resulted in a little rain, mostly south of the L.A. basin, but Southern California and much of the West has been dry, dry, dry. How dry? Take a look at this plot of percent of average precipitation for the past 90 days from the Western Regional Climate Center.

Downtown Los Angeles (USC) has not recorded measurable rain for more than a month. The last measurable rain was on December 17 when 0.01 inch recorded. The water year precipitation total for Los Angeles has been stuck on 3.76 inches, which is about 2.5 inches below normal. The Sierra has been especially dry. The Statewide Summary of Snow Water Content for January 18 reported the snowpack at 10% of normal. Remarkably, Mammoth Mountain recorded no natural snow between December 5 and January 19!

The good news is the very stubborn West Coast ridge has finally relented, opening the door to a more zonal flow and a sequence of shortwave troughs. The change in pattern is forecast to produce significant rain and snow over most of the West Coast the next few days. The HPC 5-day Precipitation Forecast indicates up to about 5 inches of precipitation in some areas of the Sierra and North Coast, and over 9 inches in some areas of the Pacific Northwest.

The change in pattern isn't forecast to produce much rain south of Pt. Conception, but at this point just about any amount would be helpful. BUFKIT analysis of WRF Ensemble forecasts for Van Nuys indicate precipitation amounts ranging from about 0.1 inch to 0.5 inch, beginning sometime this evening and ending midday Saturday. The 18z NAM precipitation forecast for Van Nuys projects about 0.25 inch for the storm. Some mountain areas could see somewhat higher precipitation totals, particularly those with a west-facing aspect.

Another shortwave is forecast to move through the area Monday. Model projections differ, but we could get a little rain out of that system as well. We'll see!

Update January 25, 2012 8:00 am PST. Precipitation totals across the area from Monday's system generally ranged from about 0.3 inch to 0.75 inch. Downtown Los Angeles (USC) recorded 0.62 inches for the storm. This combined with the 0.68 inches from Saturday's system boosted the water year total for Los Angles to 5.06 inches, which is about 75% of normal for the date. The medium range models have been all over the place. Yesterday the 12z GFS forecast for Monday morning depicted an upper low and trough on the West Coast, while the ECMWF indicated some ridging. Here's a GFS/ECMWF comparison from San Jose State University Meteorology. Given the recent Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW) and rejuvenation of the MJO there's plenty of uncertainty in the medium range. The ECMWF seems to like the idea of a relatively fast-moving trough affecting the West Coast sometime around February 1. We'll see!

Update January 21, 2012 1:30 pm PST. Perhaps because its jet stream dynamics were more favorable than expected, this first system was a little stronger and held together a little better south of Pt. Conception than suggested by the models. Rainfall totals tabulated by the NWS generally ranged from about 0.2 to 0.7 inch in the Los Angeles area, with somewhat higher totals recorded in Ventura County and Santa Barbara County. Model projections have varied on the strength of the system forecast to move through the area on Monday. The 12z NAM projected about 0.4 inch for Van Nuys; the 18z NAM about 0.3 inch, and the 12z GFS about 0.5 inch. The system appears similar to today's, but it looks like the shortwave trough and vortex max may track more directly into Southern California.

More information about Southern California weather and climate can be found using our WEATHER LINKS page.

Friday, January 20, 2012 3:33:43 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |   | 
# Monday, January 26, 2009

GEFS Ensemble Forecasts - For February 4, 2009 4:00 a.m. PST Click
GEFS Ensemble Forecasts
For February 4, 2009 4:00 a.m. PST

Weather is by nature chaotic, and not perfectly predictable. From a given starting point, small variations in initial temperature, pressure, moisture, and other factors in the weather system can lead to dramatically different outcomes. In addition, interactions of earth's oceans and terrain with the atmosphere further complicate predictability.

Two periods of rain were recently forecast in Southern California -- one from Wednesday into Saturday, and another from Sunday evening into Tuesday. Model projections varied from day to day and run to run. At one time it looked like the Los Angeles area might get about an inch or rain out of both systems. So what happened?

Considering the first period, Wednesday into Saturday, here are the preliminary rainfall totals from the NWS. Note how much the rainfall varies. In the Los Angeles basin, Downtown Los Angeles (USC) recorded 0.34 inch, LAX recorded 0.51 inch and Santa Monica recorded 0.76 inch. Locations that benefited from orographic enhancement recorded higher totals. For example. Pacioma Dam recorded 1.11 inch, Warm Springs 1.31 inch, and OPIDS Camp 1.54 inch. Some stations in Santa Barbara and San Luis Opisbo counties received as much as 2-3 inches of rain. A slight change in the position of low to the south on Wednesday and Thursday, or the low to the west on Friday and Saturday could have easily resulted in much more rain.

We're in the middle of the second period now. Instead of an over the ocean path forecast a couple of days ago, the cold trough and upper low that is over the southwest took a drier overland course down the West Coast. Nonetheless, there has been scattered showers in Southern California, and even isolated thunderstorms, lightning and hail. It's not a huge step to speculate the rainfall would have been more widespread if the system had taken a more westward path, and picked up additional moisture.

So what's next? Globally, some interesting things are occurring that could impact our weather over the next few weeks. The MJO and GWO are expected to continue their circuit into phase 3-4. This might open the door to more West Coast troughs, or MJO enhanced rainfall. A Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW) event appears to be underway and may result in polar air outbreaks that would affect the mid-latitude circulation.

However, in the short term Los Angeles rainfall remains below normal. As of January 25, Downtown Los Angeles (USC) has recorded 5.00 inches of rain this water year, which is 1.38 inches below normal. Last year, the water year total on January 25 was 9.35 inches. The ECMWF and GEFS ensembles suggest the possibility of a strong trough affecting California around February 4th or 5th, but that is a long way out, and we'll have to see!

More information concerning Southern California weather can be found using our WEATHER LINKS page.

Monday, January 26, 2009 8:55:48 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |   |