Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Perpetual Summer Continues Coastside!

Cloud Formation Pillar Point Harbor
In the debate over climate change there are many examples of impacts on glaciers, sea ice, the North and South Pole, mega storms and uncountable other subtle permutations  constantly bombarding the planet. Presently most people are not affected very much as most of this change is subtle and people experiences are not direct but rather thru the media and hearsay and the never ending spin of scientific data!

I’ve lived on the coast, El Granada and Moss Beach for 16 years and pretty well know the weather patterns over those 16 years. Having also lived many years in San Francisco and the Peninsula, I’m familiar with the micro climate aspects of the Bay Area where it’s not unusual to have a 30-40 degree F temperature spread over a 20 mile stretch!  I was born and lived many years in the Washington DC area. Although Washington’s winters are fairly mild, it’s not unusual to get occasional severe winter snow storms.  So in contrast the SF climate is generally mild and sometimes I would describe it as anemic!

Big weather news in the Bay Area is a 10 degrees change in the temperature, 10 degrees up, the headlines scream heat wave, 10 degrees down and we are in a brutal cold snap! Any rain will be headline news and occasionally the area gets a significant rain and wind storm. Living in the bay area you can pretty much be guaranteed 6 months of cloudless dry contiguous weather. Still the mere forecast of rain or appearance of clouds sends many residents scurrying for the comfort of their TV rooms for the duration!  

To me being from an area that has 4 distinct seasons I see the Bay Area as having two seasons separated by a little rain and about 10 degree temperature difference. How do I adjust, well, I wear short sleeves in the summer and long sleeves in the winter!

Until this year, I’ve seen no significant variation in the weather pattern on the coast for 16 years. It’s consistency over that period has brought comfort to me as I thrive on being blanketed in coolness most of the time, that’s why I choose to live on the coast.

Cloud Formation Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

I have not run any temperature number analysis yet for this year; my observations are strictly that, my personal take on the weather this year based on my past experience. This year is different in several ways as I will explain, however I cannot at this time say this is a trend or just an aberration over time. I’m hoping for the later but I’m skeptical of that!

So let’s look at the observations and data over the last 2 years. Rainfall records have been kept for San Francisco for 164 years, so far this year as of November 11th SF has had annual rainfall of 3.95 inches. The low record is 5.57 set in 1976. Given the trend so far this rainy season, looks like this year has a chance to be the driest on record. That in its self is not that surprising as I was in the SF area during the drought years of the mid 1970’s. What’s very surprising to me and up-setting is the temperature/ fog distribution over the last several months.  It’s way out of bounds in relation to my 16 year observation period.

The last significant rainfall month in SF was December 2012 where 7.1 inches of rain was recorded. Since that time, we have had 3.95 inches of rain! I consider January 1st 2012 as the start point for a very dry and unusual pattern.

Looking at the summer of 2013 it was running fairly normal thru August. That is the temperature and fog patterns seemed normal for the period. 

Starting in September a significant change in normal fog/temperature and humidity pattern started to make its presence known.

I need to interject some additional information on the Bay Area climate and that involves the Indian Summer the Bay Area often experiences in September and October.  The summer fog pattern shifts in September reducing the amount of fog and thus warming some of the normally cool fog areas. This is more pronounced on the Peninsula and other areas than at the coast. Although the coast will experience less fog this time of year, the temperature tens to remain cool and humidity low.  If the coast does experience some warm weather, it’s generally short-lived, perhaps a few days.

So back to September, around the beginning, a mugginess appeared along with warmer temperatures and persisted throughout the month. Except for a period of 4 days of heavy fog, the month was mostly clear of fog, unusually hot and humid; much more so than past years. This pattern continued thru October, with most days clear and warm to hot, the humidity seemed to have returned to normal.

Shockingly November has continued with the dry warm weather. As I write this on 11/13, the weather forecast is clear for about the next 10 days.

In conclusion, all of what I just wrote about may mean nothing in the scheme of Climate Change, it could just be an errant year, and a sample size of 16 is not very great. However, if this is a trend, then it’s my first direct experience with Climate Change at my local level. Direct experience may be the catalyst to melt the apathy and start a positive push towards addressing Climate Change.  I will continue to monitor the conditions in my habitat and follow up this blog.   



  1. Excellent post, and careful scientific analysis, with due caution and yet correlating your observations as a long-time observer of the area. I'm a life-long weather buff, but my wife and I have only been here in the SF Bay area since 2009, so I don't know the ropes here, so to speak, as I did after 34 years in Boston! Like you, I share concerns that what we are seeing recently, with the long-term blocking highs sending all the Aleutian and Gulf of Alaska storms around and north of us, may well indicate the effects of climate change. So, thanks for your blog, I am glad I came across it, and I will follow posts in the future.

    Best wishes,
    Steve Goodheart
    Berkeley, CA

  2. Thank you Steve for your comments! Here is an un-date as of 1/2/14, San Francisco's total for the year is 5.6 inches, the lowest in 164 years. In conjunction with that, we have had warmer than normal temperatures since October 2013 and this trend has continued into the new year. I hope to round up some concrete temperature data to do some comparisons.

  3. January 2014 ends as the driest January ever with a total rainfall of .06 inches. In addition January's average daily high temperature was 62.71 degrees F. This is almost 7 degrees warmer than the January average of 56 degrees F. In addition there were 30 days in January where the high temperature exceeded the all-time January average of 56 degrees F. Note all the temperature data I'm using is from the San Francisco International Airport.

    A drought emergency has been declared for the state of California. With February approaching, no significant rain is predicted for the near term. A high pressure ridge has been parked over central California blocking all Pacific storms from California into Oregon.

    This looks bad and nobody really can explain it. Considering the earth's weather and ocean current patterns are interconnected, any abnormality anywhere on the planet will have an effect on the entire system. It may appear as localized as here in Northern California but it's a system wide phenomenon.
    So one may ask about the abnormal phenomenon happing around the globe and its relationship to our local drought if any? I can think of a few things that may seem unrelated, but who knows? Since March 2011 radiated water has been leaking and flowing into the Pacific from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. There is much misinformation on this and wild speculation, no reliable data seems readily available. I point this out because Japan and California are interconnected by the Pacific Ocean. There is a local disaster in Japan, how are we impacted, I don’t believe you can say not at all!
    Next we have the Sea Star Wasting Syndrome affecting the entire west coast. This extent is troubling many scientist as it is unprecedented. Also there is a drastic decline in sardines and an increase in anchovy’s. Some speculate this is part of a natural ocean cycle but again the interconnectedness of all things suggests there could be a link. Related to that is the large influx of squid that happened around the Bay Area earlier this year.
    So although these items may not be related or responsible for our dry weather, it’s worth asking questions and probing deeper. As Bob Dylan sang years ago, “There’s something happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you Mister Jones?”

  4. Jack, first, you are most welcome -- you do good work! -- and I'm glad I've found my way back here again for further updates. I'd seen some of these stats -- grim. And I haven't been able to find any good explanation of how the high ridge pressure ridge had become so stuck, other than general discussions about the "stuck" weather all over the place, which *seems* highly likely, to be a result of a warmer planet and slowing jet streams predicted for a warming planet.

    The interconnectedness of things is indeed becoming more and more obvious to human beings, which is a good thing, and it does seem hard to sort out what is real change and what might be cyclical change, because we just haven't been monitoring some of these things long enough, and scientists want to be cautious, of course. (Like your points about the sardines and anchovies -- but Idan'd heard about Sea Star Wasting Syndrome before...gotta look that one up!)

    Thanks again for a great inspire me to get going again on my dormant "Nature of Berkeley" blog, not to mention my science many things to do, so many ideas, so little time!

    Thanks again for your sharing here, and best wishes,