Tag Archives: climate

Snow Anyone?

In my previous posts, I sounded excited about getting a lot of snow…. well I thought we had a lot of snow at that time.  It’s nothing compared to what we recieved this weekend.  Friday’s snowstorm landed the biggest single-day’s worth of snow that any of us have ever seen.  In the evening, when the weather began to taper, Greg Roberts and Scott Noblitt, with the help of the owner of the very cool lodge they are staying at up here in the backcountry, were able to access the site via snowmobile to ensure that none of our equipment was damaged by the unreliable electric service during the storm.  When Jack, Jessie, and I arrived in the morning, we were greeted with more than 3.5 feet of new snow (on top of the 1 foot we had remaining from the previous storm).  If you have trouble grasping how much this really is… trust me, I’m still trying and I’m in the middle of it… here’s a picture of Jessie (about 5′ 5″ tall) clearing snow off to top of NOAA’s box trailer.  Remember, all of that fell in ONE DAY.

Snow on the NOAA trailer after the 2/25 storm

Jessie Creamean posing for a photo while clearing snow from the top of the NOAA trailer at Sugar Pine Dam after the storm on 2/25/11.

According to meteorological data, this past storm may have been associated with Atmospheric River conditions, a notion that jives well with the heavy precipitation we received here in the Sierra in a short amount of time.  These kinds of conditions, where water vapor is transported directly from the tropics to the western margin of North America, have been responsible for some of the heaviest rain and snowfall on record for this region.  The band of water vapor that hit the coast here on Friday moved southward to the San Diego area on Saturday, giving our friends back home a good soaking.

In terms of aerosol science, it was great to have this second storm a week after the first one: we collected some great snow samples and were able to look for reproducible conditions surrounding the two storms.  We’re collecting lots of nice data up here, and we’re all confident that we’ll learn a lot from our observations thus far.  We’re just about 10 days or so from the end of the intensive sampling campaign.  We’re looking to finish strong… I got word today that there are plans to do lots of flights over Sugar Pine Dam in the G1.  I still haven’t had the opportunity to spot them by eye over the site (every time I’ve been available to look, it’s been cloudy).



“Unsettled Weather – Carry Chains”

We saw this message on a motorist alert sign on I-80 today heading in the direction of Donner Pass… it seemed appropriate for the situation.  This weekend we had 3+ feet of snow dumped on the field site at Sugar Pine Dam.  Things got more interesting with electric service becoming as unpredictable as the weather.  Once we finally felt settled and stabilized our research payload, the Sugar Pine crew got a little snow-related activity in this weekend.


A view from the Humbug Loop in the China Wall area of Tahoe National Forest

It’s a very good thing we decided to rent those snowshoes… we simply would not have made it down the access road without them.  Knee-to-hip high snow was the norm for the ensuing 2 days… and wouldn’t you know it, we needed to transport some urgently needed (and very heavy) equipment to the site.  We decided a ski-patrol/mountain rescue procedure was in order — though we used a slightly lower-tech approach…

Snowshoe Sled

Jack and Doug utilize a mountain rescue technique to bring important supplies to the Prather Group's Portable Aerosol Observatory while it's under 3+ feet of snow.

Science-wise, we’ve all been very interested in the preliminary results at Sugar Pine.  It looks like we’ll be able to present some very interesting findings once we all get our data processed and compared.  It’s great to have multiple views of the conditions at our site, with Greg Roberts and Scott Noblitt joining us this year on a day-to-day basis.


Day 8: CalWater–Still no clouds…

Today is our first hard down day for the aircraft.  This means no flights and no power to the aircraft so no one is allowed to work.  It is a much needed break for the scientists who have been working so hard to prepare and start Calwater.  It was a good day to use for a down day as we sit and wait for the clouds to come to us…the weather is almost unbelievable.  Even the marine stratocumulus clouds remain in a stand-off with the coast.  One can see this, as well as the CalWater study area highlighted in yellow in this cloud image.  Just heard in our NOAA weather webcast this morning that the storm we were hoping for over this coming weekend just died out over the Pacific.  We’re back to hoping for a Valentine’s Day storm.  Honestly, I never thought I would be wishing so hard to see even a single cloud in the sky.  I watch the NASA Satellite images almost every waking hour.  I didn’t think it was physically possible to not have a single (non-cirrus) cloud over the entire Northern CA region during February, a month that historically has large amounts of precipitation.  So, now I am learning how to run and interpret models that will be used to predict when the clouds will arrive in California–in particular, we are interested in the formation of orographic wave clouds over the Sierras.  We need every possible tool so we can take advantage of flights over the next few weeks of the study….

Clouds in face-off with California coastline...

OK, since we can’t talk about clouds…

OK, since we can’t talk about clouds, let’s talk about my second favorite subject…FOOD.  We had our best “dining experience” yesterday in Sacramento.  Prof. Daniel Rosenfeld, aka “Cloud God”, my friend and colleague who is here from Israel working on the study with us, was becoming skeptical that there is no such thing as a “good burger”.  So, after doing some research, I found a place to take him for lunch.  I told Danny, “If you don’t like this burger, then you can deem all burgers as bad, but let’s try one more time.”.  So we went off to The Squeeze Inn in Roseville which is very near Sacramento.  This place was highlighted by Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and I trust Guy’s judgement since he comes from my home town, Santa Rosa.  We went in to a very busy restaurant and had to wait in line for about 15 minutes to place our order and another 20 minutes to get our food…so the anticipation and hunger were building.  We sat at the bar to get a taste of the full ambiance–you can watch the owners cook the burgers….It became clear that you MUST get a cheeseburger or you’re missing a key part of the experience.  They put down the burgers in a row and then place grilled onions or whatever toppings you order on them and then they put mounds of shredded sharp cheese that spills across the entire grill and melts all down and around the burgers.  The cheese browns and bubbles while they cover the burgers and cook them.  They then put the burgers and cooked crunchy cheese (on the edges) on a bun with fresh pickles, etc.  and serve it up.  It was so beautiful I had to take a picture.

Burger with crunchy sharp cheese out the sides...

Isn’t the burger a beauty–and yes, it tastes as good as it looks.  Well, this is the first time I have written a blog about food.  I’ve often dreamed of becoming a restaurant critic, so feedback is welcome as I work my way towards my next calling…


Day 1: Calwater

Well, day 1 of Calwater has officially arrived.  The airplane (the PNNL/DOE G1) came down from its home base in Richland, Washington and landed about 10:50 am this morning.  There is a saying that if you ever want to clean up the air pollution, just schedule a field study.  It is amazing how clear the air has become during some of our larger field campaigns.  Well, I have another one–if you ever want to stop the rain and have beautiful clear skies, plan an aerosol-cloud-precipitation study.  It is almost unbelievable.  No bad weather in sight for maybe 2 weeks….good old La Nina that we were promised has finally kicked in.  So, tomorrow we will do our first test flight–we’ll probably fly down through the pollution in the Central Valley.  I’ll stay on the ground tomorrow and watch the flight data from the control room with the other scientists….I think I will give it  few more days before going up myself.  We had our first meeting, toured the G1 which is very nicely equipped, and then went out for a wonderful (very authentic) Thai dinner at a total hole in the wall place that we almost didn’t go into because it looked so rough from the outside (those are often the best spots!).  Tomorrow morning we’ll have our safety briefing at 8 am and then start Day 2…Before I go to sleep, I’m going to pray to the rain Gods!!