Friday, January 24, 2014

That Ridiculously Resilient Ridge in (non)action!

Thanks to some sips tips from Stackoverflow and OSXDailymy sister's pointer to, and the NOAA/ESRL Daily Mean Composites visualizer,  I managed to create an animation of the quasi-stationary Ridiculously Resilient Ridge (RRR) between December 23, 2013 and January 21, 2014.

The RRR is a remarkably scary phenomena because it's been sitting there, deflecting rain from California, for THIRTEEN consecutive months.  In fact, the high-pressure ridge is often so large, it's deflecting moisture from most of the west coast of Canada and the Unites States!

Remember Newton's First Law of Physics?  An object at rest stays at rest unless acted upon by an external force.

The earth's atmosphere behaves like a shallow pan of fluid on top of our rock ball.  The atmosphere responds with waves when pinged (water analogy) or plucked (string analogy).  You can see the opposite phases of the waves in blue (low pressure) and red (high pressure) below.  Normally, the waves move around a bit, spreading the sunshine and rain over time and space.

However, the RRR has been quasi-stationary with practically zero momentum for more than a year.  It would take a lot of energy to budge something so big and so stationary.  The strength and persistence of the RRR makes that an unlikely event.

This is a severe event.  In a widespread drought like this, it's simply not an option to pull water from another water shed (e.g. the Colorado River Basin).  No one in the west has any water to spare.  This is not media hype.  This could be a catastrophic disaster.

It't time to prepare for the worst drought and wildfire season in California in my lifetime.


I showed it in Lambert Conformal (conic projection) instead of Polar Stereographic this time.  Which do you prefer?


  1. Jean S09:07

    You're so right.

    I keep thinking about Mill Valley. When was it--the 1920s?--when they had that bad fire...

    1. I hadn't heard about that fire, but the 1920s was also in the negative phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). We are seeing a very strong signature of PDO and I'll write more about that later.

  2. Julia16:47

    Why do you think this drought will be worse than the one in the 80s?

    I'm asking out of ignorance and self-interest. I moved to california in 1990 so this is my first time seeing such a drought.

    1. > Why do you think this drought will be worse than the one in the 80s?

      Because of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, my next weather post.

  3. Wow. I really was poorly informed about how bad things are where you live from my perch in very cold northern NY, where we are having an "old-fashioned" winter. One of the reasons I tough out the bitter cold winters is that we have abundant water here. Fresh water is precious and a reliable supply is a rational item to put on a list of criteria for deciding where to live.


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