Lots of Photos!

Sunset from Borel Hill

Over the past couple days I visited Salt Point State Park, the Sonoma Coast, Mount Tamalpais State Park, and several parks along Skyline Blvd.  I watched two amazing sunsets, one on Mount Tamalpais and the other on Borel Hill in Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve. This flurry of activity was spurred by sunny skies and remarkable clarity across the region (even the normally smog prone Silicon Valley). I am headed out of town for a few days so here are some links to photo albums until I post higher quality versions (especially for the panoramas) to this blog:

Snow on Skyline

The crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains seems to get snow at least once a year, but it’s still a rare enough occurrence that I get excited about it. On Monday, I drove up to Skyline Blvd. and found picturesque winter scenes after 2-3 inches of snow fell at the higher elevations that morning. Here is a short video (3:12) of the snowy scenes:

I started at Russian Ridge Open Space and hiked up to Borel Hill and then did a loop of the ancient oaks trail, which was spectacular! I then continued to Long Ridge Open Space where a line of snow covered Douglas firs made a scene fit for a holiday greeting card. A bridge over Peters Creek was also nicely situated. Finally, I went to the highest section of Skyline Blvd. at Castle Rock State Park. I went up to 3,214 ft Castle Rock and then hiked over to Goat Rock for more great scenes. At the lowest point, the snow level in the Santa Cruz was at about 1,500 feet, but measurable accumulations were only found above 2,000 feet with progressively more snow at the highest elevations of Skyline Blvd. just over 3,000 feet.

More photos after the jump and at my Picasa Album!

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October 13th Storm

October 13, 2009 was a day for the record books in Bay Area weather and a bonanza for weather geeks like me :) Numerous daily rainfall records were set across the Bay Area as the strongest October storm since the 1962 Columbus Day storm battered the region. Impressive rainfall totals were tallied in the usually wet spots but also the typically drier locations. The high precipitation rates were due to the fact that this storm was infused with copious amounts of tropical moisture from ex-Super Typhoon Melor that impacted Japan last week. A strong jet stream picked up the moisture and propelled it towards the West Coast. The tropical nature of the system was also apparent today as it was quite muggy outside with temps in the mid 70s despite cloud cover. Highest precipitation totals occurred in the Santa Cruz Mountains, as expected, where several gauges recorded over 10 inches of rain and 3,486 ft Mount Umunhum tallied 13.23 inches, the highest total in the Bay Area. Highest totals produced by the system anywhere occurred in the Santa Lucia Mountains along the Big Sur Coast where some gauges topped 16 inches! Strong winds also accompanied the storm with peak gusts over 50 mph common across many Bay Area locations.

Precipitation Summary:

  • 2-5 inches at Coastal, Valley, and Bay locations: SF downtown (2.48), SF Int’l (2.64), Oak Int’l (2.37), Oakland (3.86), San Jose Int’l (2.33), Stanford (3.02), Woodside (3.93), Redwood City (3.52), La Honda (4.94)
  • 6-12 inches in the Santa Cruz Mountains: Ben Lomond Mtn (10.60), Mt Umunhum (13.23), Uvas Canyon (11.65)
  • 5-6 in the Marin Hills: Mt Tam (7.14)
  • 4-6 in the East Bay Hills
  • 5.72 on Mount Diablo
West Union Creek in Huddart Park

West Union Creek in Huddart Park

More details and post-rain photos at Huddart Park after the jump!

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Sammamish Sunset

Red Sunset

Click image for larger version

A gorgeous sunset tonight in Sammamish looking over Lake Sammamish towards Bellevue and the Olympic Mountains. The amazing redness is due to a forest fire over the Olympic Mountains that spread smoke between our location and the setting sun.

First Rain of the Season

An unseasonably strong weather system shoved the ridge of high pressure that resides in California all summer off to the east allowing for the first substantial rain of the season. Due to the unusually dry spring, I had to look all the way back to March to find the last prior rain event of this magnitude (nothing over 0.05 inches in one day between March and October). Here are some local totals with a clear manifestation of orographic (topographic) enhancement of precipitation in the Santa Cruz Mountains:

  • Pulgas (San Carlos Hills) – 0.35
  • Atherton – 0.30
  • Woodside – 0.45
  • Portola Valley – 0.24
  • Mountain View – 0.24
  • Sky Londa – 0.63
  • La Honda – 0.74

Bay Area Totals:

  • Santa Rosa – 0.43
  • Middle Peak of Mount Tamalpais – 0.69
  • San Francisco Airport – 0.15
  • Oakland – 0.37
  • San Jose Airport – 0.13
  • Big Sur Station – 0.46

The rains made the redwood forest vibrant and the air fresh at Huddart Park and Phleger Estate. We enjoyed one of those runs where the drippy and misty redwood forest has a certain mystique.

A little redwood hugging in Phleger Estate

A little redwood hugging at Phleger Estate!

Return to winter in the High Sierra

Plans to climb in the high Sierra this Memorial Day Weekend have been spoiled by an usually cool and unsettled weather pattern. This is especially untimely considering there hasn’t been a significant snow in several months! High elevation temps (over 10k feet) are under freezing all day with poor visibility and snow showers. The snow level is at 7,000 feet, perhaps lowering to 6,000 feet at times this weekend, and five inches is already on the ground at Mineral King in Sequoia National park (elevation 7,800 feet). Whiteout conditions with heavy snow have been reported at 9,000 feet in the eastern Sierra at Rock Creek. Oh well, at least this is good for snowpack/water worries. This pattern looks to persist through the weekend and into next week, a huge turnaround from the sweltering weather experienced only 5 days ago! Oh well, no excuses to not hit the books now…

Live image from Sherman Peak (9,909 ft) in the Southern Sierra (Sequoia National Forest). On Saturday, May 24th there was about a foot of new snow on the ground.

Sammamish

I’m in my hometown of Sammamish, WA for a week and a half. Naturally, the weather is cool and rainy. A steady rain fell all day today and temps struggled to get to 50 degrees. Fortunately, I am brining some of the California sunshine as a hot ridge of high pressure is expected to build Thursday through Saturday providing temps well into the 80′s and perhaps topping the 90 degree mark in Sammamish, which is located a bit inland from the cooling waters of the Puget Sound.

I celebrated my birthday with family on Sunday and enjoyed my sister’s delicious apple crumble – no added sugar, but so sweet =) I have also had the opportunity to run in a couple favorite local parks – the Redmond Watershed Preserve and Cougar Mountain. The vegetation up here is so lush, especially this year with the cooler and wetter spring. The trails were a bit muddy too, conditions I haven’t experienced in CA for months!

Anomalous Weather

While the March weather in Washington has been colder, wetter, and snowier than usual, California has basked in sunshine, sunshine, and more sunshine. The last week of March in Seattle was the third coldest on record and snow fell in many parts of the Puget Sound lowlands, a highly unusual event. Moreover, temperatures in the upper atmosphere were the coldest observed in 32 years, at any time of the year! More details can be found here. Meanwhile, it has been sunny and dry in California as all the energy has been shunted to the Pacific Northwest. The Northern Sacramento valley experienced its driest March since 1956 and the Sierra have not received a significant snow in a month and half! While early storms in January and early February were promising, the dry period of late has caused seasonal snow totals to retreat back to normal levels in the Sierra. Some sites are now even reporting below average snowpack, which is not good for staving off summer droughts. The forecast does not hold too much promise for California as no significant storms are anticipated in the near future and the door for a significant precipitation event quickly closes once May comes around. Meanwhile, wet and cool is possible in Washington through June.

Not too late for snow in Sammamish!

I got a call from my mom in Sammamish, WA this evening and she told me that it was snowing hard with several inches of snow on the ground. Sammamish is my hometown and is located 30 minutes east of Seattle near the Cascade foothills and typically receives more snow than Seattle proper. However, snow anywhere in the Western Washington lowlands is not a common event even in the depths of winter, let alone at the end of March! The culprit for the snow is the infamous Puget Sound Convergence Zone (PSCZ), which creates an area of focused precipitation in the central Puget Sound region as winds wrapping around the Olympic Mountains collide. The unseasonably cool airmass combined with the rapid precipitation rates within the PSCZ dropped snow levels down to sea level near Lake Sammamish and resulted in heavy snow this evening. The PSCZ is especially favorable for accumulating snow fast on the plateau of Sammamish which is between 300-600 feet above sea level and tonight was no exception. The precipitation fell largely as rain further west in the larger cities of Bellevue and Seattle.