Category Archives: Weather

Smoky Sunset

The smoke sucks.

Another day of smelling it, sore eyes, a nagging small cough.

Even with that, while it’s not great here, it’s far, FAR worse in so many other places in California, Oregon, and Washington.

Not to mention the actual, you know, FIRES, that are killing dozens, could kill thousands, and are destroying entire towns and literally millions of acres of forests and grasslands.

But the special effects… WOW!

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Hazy Here – Infernos In NorCal

Here we had a bit of haze, a bit of smoke, enough to make the sunset orange-ish.

There are still three major fires in Southern California and a handful of smaller ones. The closest and biggest is about fifty miles to our northeast. All of them are still less than 20% contained, but burning off into some extremely steep, rugged, and empty terrain with few structures, homes, or power lines which would need protecting. Given how thinly stretched the air resources and ground troops and equipment are, they may just have to burn for a few days or few weeks.

Up north, in the Bay Area and over toward Davis and Sacramento, a series of large storms went through a few days ago with thousands upon thousands of lightning strikes into tinder dry terrain. It seems like everything is burning up there. The only county anywhere from San Jose to San Francisco to Oakland to Sacramento to Reno that doesn’t have out of control brush fires is San Francisco County, because it’s about 99% urban.

Elsewhere there are tens of thousands of people evacuated, and it might be 100,000+ by now. Nearer and dearer to my heart, tonight we’ve been watching the webcam (here) that looks over the Lick Observatory. It’s not looking good.

(Image: University of California Observatories / Lick Observatory)

The big dome’s the 3-meter telescope, with five others scattered around the peak near it. While the original observatory was build in 1888, the first observatory built on a mountain top, the current telescopes are still in use constantly.

Given all of the homes and lives threatened, I don’t know how many resources CalFire can put into defending Lick. Let’s pray that it’s enough.

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Filed under Astronomy, Disasters, Photography, Weather

Another Sunset

A little orange from all of the smoke, a little grey from some of the clouds.

A little pink from all of those fine particulates in the atmosphere.

The planet spins, the sun sets, only to rise again tomorrow. No matter how bad we mess things up, or how many stupid decisions we make.


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It’s not just a ship in the Star Trek re-boot universe. (Although that opening scene, with George Kirk sacrificing himself to save his crew and family… Still a two-tissue opening for me!)

It’s also a measure of temperature, as you should remember from high school chemistry or physics.

I was surprised today to notice that on the Google News page, not only can you get the local five-day weather forecast in Fahrenheit and Celsius, but also in Kelvin.

Since my brain is thinking in Fahrenheit, the Kelvin figures match what it feels like in SoCal these days.

A balmy 314K tomorrow? We might need the A/C to work overtime. If the power stays on. And we’re not burning.

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Dusk Clouds

Yesterday I had pictures of afternoon clouds, the first we’ve seen in weeks and weeks.

These are the clouds from dusk yesterday, just before it gets so dark that you can’t get the camera to autofocus on them. The color gradients are fantastic as the cloud layers lower down are grey, in shadow, while the layers higher up are still catching the odd sunbeam just as the sun disappears.

Today, as predicted, we had 103° here, with temps as high as 109° up in the Central Valley and in the mountains where the brush fires are burning.

And also as predicted, the relative humidity has dropped back down into the teens and the wind has picked up. For tomorrow it’s supposed to be even hotter, with no let up in sight. Bad, bad news for those on the front lines fighting the fires.

What that also means is power shortages as everyone who has air conditioning has it cranked up to eleven. Already tonight Pacific Gas & Electric up in Northern California and Southern California Edison down here are instituting rolling blackouts. A quarter million folks at a time will lose power for an hour or so, then the next group, then the next…

So far we haven’t heard any notices of rolling blackouts from LA Department of Water & Power, but we have to assume they’re coming. If you’re like me and on the computer (or multiple computers) all day long, remember the cardinal rule – save early and often!!


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Afternoon Clouds

What’s been great for comet watching and ISS watching has been an almost total and complete lack of clouds for months.

Not today. We woke up to it being gloomy and grey, with scattered showers. (We didn’t see a drop.)

Apparently it’s the leftovers from Hurricane Elida, churning as a Category 2 storm off of Cabo San Lucas, a thousand miles to our south.

By afternoon the gloomy part had given way to white, puffy, happy little clouds from horizon to horizon.

And humidity. Something that we don’t have a lot of, but were grateful for today. There are several large fires forty to sixty miles to our east and north, right on the edge of the Los Angeles metro area, and the humidity helps keep the fire from spreading so quickly.

Those clouds on the horizon are neither white, puffy, happy, or in fact, water. That’s smoke.

Tomorrow and into the weekend it promises to dry back out, kick up the winds, and push up into triple digits. Hang on to your hats.

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Up Or Down?

Are we looking down at the ocean from low Earth orbit or looking up toward space through Rayleigh scattered sunlight?

It’s not easy to tell. Maybe if there had been a 737 on it’s way into Burbank, or the odd hawk or seagull soaring around. Or, on the other hand, maybe a bit of solar panel or a corner of a Dragon or Soyuz for context.

The trees are a dead giveaway.

Very, very few trees growing in low Earth orbit. As a rule.

Technically I guess you can’t rule out the arrival of one of the giant tree-like bioships from some advanced civilization, but the odds aren’t in your favor on that one.

So the bad news is that I didn’t get to go drift weightless today in low Earth orbit. The good news is that it was a nice, warm, sunny day here on this patch of the planet’s surface.

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Venus In The Pink

Just like “Groundhog Day.” A truly great movie, by the way, but I never actually wanted to live it.

Another evening where I walked away from the mountain of work at my desk and the Deadlines From Hell ™ and took thirty or forty minutes to read and watch the sunset.

Do you see Venus up there? It’s right there in the clouds, but they’re not that thick, so you can see it shining through just below the three power lines, about halfway between the trees on either side of the picture. Click on the image to blow it up to full size – it’s there!

Can you see it now? Like a diamond floating up there in pink cotton candy.

The sunset two days ago was very much orange and yellow where tonight was very much pink and purple.

And as before, and as it will be tomorrow, eventually it all fades to black. I waved to Major who was walking by, disappointed by the absence of the bunnies who won’t come out when I’m sitting out there.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll sit out in the back yard to harass the wrens instead so that Major can spook the bunnies.

It’s the little things.


Filed under Astronomy, CoronaVirus, Photography, Weather

Sunsets Are A Process

It goes without saying, but if anyone’s going to say it anyway it’s going to be me. Sunset photos are gorgeous, but it’s a process.

You can’t capture them in a single photo, or even a video.

The colors shift ever so gradually. Sometimes there are shades of orange, red, pink, purple, blue, and they all slide and transform second by second, but not so that you can actually see or notice, only feel.

Sometimes with layers of clouds and all of their holes and nooks and crannies (and crooks and nannies) you’ll get brighter moments, and rays, and shadows.

You can’t feel the breeze, or smell those bushes in a picture or a video. You can’t watch the bunnies come out to see if Major’s still around.

I took a break from a work avalanche and sat out reading a book. At one point I heard a buzzing sound from that bush right in front of me and thought it might be one of those HUGE flying beetles, but bigger than I had ever seen before. Close! It was a hummingbird, about three feet from me. It didn’t stick around when I moved.

The only bad part about a real book instead of an e-file on my iPad or phone is that about this point it got too dark to read. Oh, well. Back to generating documents and uploading them to the auditors.

Wash your hands. Stay home. Wear a mask.

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Filed under CoronaVirus, Photography, Weather

Clouds Adding Character

Tonight’s layers of clouds didn’t “partially obscure the conjunction of the crescent moon and Venus.” Nah!

Such negativity! “Obscure” is such a judgmental term!

Nah, let’s say that they added color and character!

“Character!” Yeah, that’s it!

It was a group effort tonight! Clouds, moon, Venus!

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Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space, Weather