Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Last year, we were talking about snow in the Sierra

In the midst of this balmy, October weather, I sneaked a look at the weather a year ago. I saw an archived item about a local storm report — talking about snow in the Sierra Nevada. There were reports of heavy snow in the mountains of Fresno, Tulare and Madera counties.

Earlier in the month last year, there was an item about record heat. It was a good reminder of how quickly things can change in October.

No one has complained to me about temperatures in the 80s during the day and 50s at night. Air quality has been pretty good, too.

But if the nice weather continues into November, people will begin to get nervous about a third consecutive dry winter in Central California.

Wet or dry this winter? So far, there’s no clue in the ocean

Making a bet about a wet or dry winter this year? Don’t look for El Nino or La Nina to give you an edge. It’s looking like La Nada so far.

San Luis Reservoir has been low this year due to drought and pumping restrictions in the delta;

If you don’t know, El Nino and La Nina are all about the shallow water temperature in the Pacific Ocean around the equator. Nino means warmer than usual — an indication California might have a wet winter. Nina means cooler — a hint that it might be dry.

After two arid winters years and the long, dry summer of 2013, I hear from a lot farmers, city leaders and business folk who want some idea about the winter to come.

But the Pacific isn’t giving anyone a clue this year. Scientists say it is neither warm nor cool. Which means it’s just a coin flip so far, unless things change soon.

I like to follow Jan Null’s web site about the phenomenon.  Null is a private meteorologist in the Bay Area, and you can learn a lot from his page.

Meanwhile, all bets are off when the ocean is in neutral. Will it stay in neutral? NOAA says it looks like neutral conditions will remain for the 2013-2014 winter.

Fresno was not warmest city in nation from January to July

Someone mentioned a story about Fresno being the hottest place in the country between January and July, according to NOAA.

But read the NOAA web site closely. That’s not at all what the federal government is saying.

Fresno is in bright red with the word “warmest” under the January-to-July ranking. It just means this is the warmest January-to-July ranking for Fresno in the last 66 years.

There are much warmer cities in the United States. Click the up-and-down button on the 2013 ranking. You’ll see there were about 25 other cities that were warmer.

Even so, it’s a pretty interesting statistic for Fresno.

But there is one unanswered question I have about this climate ranking. Why does NOAA look at only 66 years of record?

Fresno’s records go back more than a century. I’ve seen National Weather Service statistics on warm months that included months from 1906.

There are plausible reasons — perhaps the monitoring station was moved to its present site 66 years ago. NOAA hints at that by saying these are long-term monitoring stations.

Track California reservoirs, rivers and snowpack data

If you’re interested in tracking reservoir storage, river flows and the snow-water content in the Sierra, the state has a web site for you — California Data Exchange Center, known as CDEC.

I am particularly interested in the amount of water frozen in the snow. Water content gives you an idea of how much water can be expected next spring and summer when the snowpack melts.

About this time of year, I like to compare the snowpack at this point to the snowpack last year. You can do that at this page.

As of Nov. 21, the Sierra is about the same as it was last year.  It is less than average, but most of the season is still ahead.

River flows become more important later in the wet season, but any time is a good time to look up reservoir levels. Reservoirs are the bank account of water from previous seasons. They’re still looking pretty good, even though last year was a little dry.

Follow CDEC, and you’ll have an idea of what farmers, hydroelectric projects and many industries are watching this winter in California.

Weather whiplash, and PM-2.5 season starting

Ready for the weather whiplash and a season when air pollution can get dangerous?

You probably know forecasters are saying San Joaquin Valley days should nudge into the mid-80’s this week. By Saturday morning, the Valley may see its first widespread frost.

That’s what private meteorologist Steve Johnson wrote in his forecast. He said the lowest of the low temperatures don’t appear to be headed much below 30 degrees.

I’m interested mostly because of air quality. Occasionally, warm November temperatures result in ozone violations.  There were two in 2010.

More often, there are violations of the federal standard for tiny particles known as PM-2.5.  I sometimes call it soot, but PM-2.5 is many types of specks, including chemicals. In cities, a lot of PM-2.5 comes from wood-burning in fireplaces.

It’s time to pay attention to this dangerous pollutant. It is linked to heart disease, lung ailments and early mortality.

Check to see if it’s OK to burn wood before you light up. Even if you don’t have problems breathing, your neighbor might.