Category Archives: Weather

Timely Rainbows

There were some unpleasant and troubling bits of news delivered today. It was tough. Still is, going to need some time to process, time I might not have.

Nothing life threatening. No one’s dying, no one’s got cancer. We’ll figure it out. (We always do.) But it might not be as much fun as we had hoped for.

On my secondary desktop I had one of the Virtual Railfan sites up and running as eye candy. Hesperia, CA, to be exact. (Which may become more important soon, but that’s a whole different story and crisis.)

The weather there’s been just as rainy as ours, but just as I was looking, the sun same through.

Image: Virtual Railfan

Nice! I took a picture of the screen and passed it around. Maybe it was a sign. (I don’t believe in “signs,” but any port in a storm and there are no atheists in foxholes, so I’m apparently big on cliches.)

Then I went to take a few breaths outside for a minute.

Do you see it? Way, way, way off in the distance? Over by Griffith Park?

It’s not a whole rainbow, but I’ll take what I can get.

It may not have been big, but it was BRIGHT! This little arc of color really stood out.

It doesn’t show up super bright in this image, but to the naked eye even the violet on the left was vibrant.

As the sun behind me was peeking in and out of the clouds, at times it got even brighter, even if it didn’t get bigger.

Someone today gave me the “Hope is not a plan” quote.


But plans can be developed, and in fact are already in the works.

We don’t get overconfident, but when we say, “We’ll figure it out, we always do,” that’s not bragging, it’s confidence in our abilities and our team.

Plans aren’t made in a vacuum, and they’re not carried out blindly or automatically.

THAT’s where the hope comes in. Rainbows help.

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Filed under Photography, Weather

Fog In The Canyon

This current storm was trying to leave this morning but had filled the canyon below us with fog.

Some think the fog is spooky or ominous. I understand the dangers while driving in the fog, or landing a plane, but I find it calm and quiet.

Through it all I could hear mourning doves crying in the trees. But the sounds of the traffic were muted, dim, distant.

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Going to be another long night if you live below one of the burn areas. Fortunately, we don’t. It’s just going to be wet. Still a lot of evacuations up in NorCal as they’re waiting to see if the hills slide.

Image: Wunderground

As I’ve noted, California is getting clobbered for weeks now with storm after storm. The snow pack in the Sierras is at over 225% of the average. There are levees breaking and flooding and mudslides all over, especially in the mountains.

Yet we need the water, desperately. This comes after four years of massive drought. The problem is that, while all of this rain and the snowmelt runoff will go a long way to refill the reservoirs, it would take years of this to replenish the groundwater. So the drought really isn’t over, just a little bit better.

And in the bigger picture, the thing that we’re losing in climate change is stability. We used to have variations from year to year of course, but now things are getting wackier by the day.

The Arctic ice pack is at near record lows and over time is going down every year. The ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting. The jet stream and the ocean currents like the Gulf Stream are shifting and showing signs of breaking down. Which will in turn bring hot, tropical air up near the poles and “polar vortex” cold air down to the mid-latitudes. Which in turn can melt the Arctic ice faster, and the permafrost, which releases methane. Methane is a much worse greenhouse gas, so that feeds temperature increases, which melts more ice and permafrost, which destabilizes more weather systems that we’ve relied on for millenia, which in turn…

Can you say, “positive feedback loop?” Sure, I knew you could.

The big question is whether we’ve actually stumbled past a point of no return, a tipping point. That might have happened without us even knowing it and from here there’s no way to reverse the trends in time.

Other systems in our lives have similar issues. How do we know when things are irreparably broken and how do we know when to keep fighting to fix them?

I’m stubborn (otherwise known as “too stupid to know when to quit”) most of the time so I’ll keep fighting, but things are looking unpleasant for the future. Let’s hope there’s enough of us clever monkey descendants to fix what we’ve broken.

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Scud Running

If you’re a pilot, you’ll be familiar with the term “scud running.” In more formal terms, it means trying to squeeze between low clouds (scud) and the ground or minimum altitude restrictions. (That “hard deck” they’re always talking about in “Top Gun?” It’s that.) One’s often flying under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) where you’re not necessarily talking to Air Traffic Control (ATC). One might not be rated for Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). One might not want to be bothered with all of the paperwork and control and planning involved in IFR flight and want to stay in the “easier” VFR flight rules.

In more snarky terms, it means “maintaining visual contact with the ground while avoiding physical contact with it.” To be legal in most controlled airspace you need to be 500 feet away from the clouds and 1,200 feet above the ground (depending on what airspace you’re in) with three miles of visibility. But if you can get into Class G (uncontrolled) airspace it’s 500 feet from the clouds and one mile of visibility. So if you get down low and can squeeze between those hills and mountains and the ground and that lowering cloud deck…

This is dangerous. Often VERY dangerous. Legal? Probably. Sometimes. Maybe. -ish.

Lots of things can go very wrong very fast. There are more and more things like cell towers, power lines, wind turbine towers, and buildings out there to make something very hard and very bad to fly into. At such a low altitude, if anything goes wrong (like engine problems) you have very little room for error or maneuvering. Scud is often found near the edges of thunderstorms and that can mean downdrafts that just reach out and slap you out of the sky. The clouds can close in and leave you in IFR conditions, blind, close to the ground, and in a world of hurt.

Got the picture?

The same thing happens in life. You take a “small” chance and get away with it. You know better, but it’s convenient and you just need to bend the rules a little bit, not really break them. Then the next time it’s easier to do it again. And the next time you bend the rules just a little bit more. You keep getting away with it. Again, and again, and…

…and then things go pear-shaped and sideways and you’re seriously up the creek.

I think this is basically the overall story arc of “Breaking Bad.”

Admire the scud in the sunset. Avoid the scud running in a plane or in everyday life.

Just something to think about.


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Filed under Flying, Photography, Sunsets, Weather

Goodbye Moon

Yet another monstrous set of storms coming into California. Three years of massive drought (or is it four?) left us with serious water use restrictions, and now we’ve unexpectedly swung to the other extreme.

Image: Wunderground

It’s on our doorstep, with the rain starting in the next hour or so. We’re catching the tail end of it in SoCal. Up north, by San Luis Obispo and the Bay Area, there are already some mandatory evacuations for flooding being put into effect.

Image: Wunderground

I just hope it’s nice and dry and clear for NEXT weekend – on the 18th and 19th there’s a massive airshow at Point Mugu and I haven’t been to one in years.

Meanwhile, the 22º arc around the moon was the last we’ll see of any celestial objects for a couple of days.

Stay safe, folks!

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Goodbye February Clouds

It has been an unusually cloudy February around these parts. While that might normally be a novel, interesting, and very much needed thing, this year it comes at the end of a rather wet and rainy and cloudy December and January and there’s something in the sky that I want to watch!

Again tonight it was completely overcast by sunset, and by the time it got dark an hour later it was raining hard again.

No Venus and Jupiter tonight, again. That’s six of the last eight nights where I’ve been shut down by weather.

At least the weather looks to be better in the near future. We might even have a clear sky for tomorrow night, when the two bright planets will appear the closest to each other in the western sky at sunset.

If you’ve got a clear sky tomorrow at sunset, go take a look. Again, no equipment needed, although if you have binoculars you should be able to see the Galilean moons of Jupiter.

If you’re clouded out tomorrow, go take a look the next night. Or the next night. Or on the weekend. Or…

You know the drill. This is not a “tomorrow” thing, although the mainstream media will work hard to generate clickbait headlines. Jupiter will be heading toward the horizon and Venus will be heading up into the sky so they’ll pull apart for the next two or three weeks before Jupiter heads around the far side of the Sun from our viewpoint and Venus will be left by itself to be BRIGHT in the evening sky.


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No Venus & No Jupiter

They’re closer tonight than they were last night – celestial mechanics is sort of unstoppable – but we saw nothing from Los Angeles.

Sunset was an exercise in Chiaroscuro – very nice.

But there was no way we were going to see Venus or Jupiter. I couldn’t even see the moon overhead.

But an interesting sunset. You take what you can get.

An hour or so later when I went to double check…

Solid overcast & rain. And apparently more of that for the next couple of days.

It would be nice to get a clear sky on Wednesday, the day of closest approach, but I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for it.

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Soggy Critters

I did a quick check of several National Weather Service sites and a few local weather sites, trying to see if anyone has an exact figure for how much rain we’ve gotten. Couldn’t find one, I’m sure we’ll have a total in the morning. Let me just say, as a semi-educated amateur, it was A LOT! Probably as much as I’ve ever seen here in SoCal in almost 50 years here.

Surprisingly, we haven’t lost power. There have been a few flickers, but we’re still online, warm, dry, with a roof over our heads and the lights on. The wee wild critters can’t say the same.

When I went out to put out seed, this guy didn’t even wait until I was back in the house before he was charging the critter banquet table.

He was soggy and looked the worse for wear. I don’t know if he was grateful, be he sure wasn’t going to look a gift meal in the mouth.

While he attacked the seed that I had dropped on the porch, a gazillion birds descended to pick the rest of it out of the mud.

The hummers were also buzzing around both feeders. They need all the energy they can get when it’s this cold, and more so when it’s also this wet.

I topped off both feeders and they were put into use within seconds of me getting back into the house.

What kills me is the way they immediately come over and hover around the empty space when I pull the empty feeder down and take it inside to clean it and refill it. I’m at the kitchen sink looking right at this spot and they’re buzzing around like, “Wait! WTF! Where did it go? Man, it was RIGHT HERE! Now it’s gone!!”

Later this evening it got downright nasty. It’s warmed up about 10º over this morning (meaning that it’s about 50º instead of 40º) but the rain has just been falling in sheets and the winds have been gusting to over 50 knots. For the last several hours we’ve been under a flash flood alert. For about ninety minutes tonight we were under a severe thunderstorm alert. (Never saw any lightning or heard any thunder – RATS!) About four miles away, at Warner Center Park, the LAFD was doing a rescue of passengers trapped in a car after a big tree fell over on it.

Let’s hope all of the soggy critters stay warm and as dry as they can tonight. This rain and nastiness is supposed to last until Wednesday or so.

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Filed under Critters, Photography, Weather

Here Comes The Rain

No sign of snow here yet (and probably still highly unlikely HERE-here) but there is snow on top of the Santa Suzanna Mountains just a few miles north. The coldest part of the storm isn’t due until tomorrow and Saturday.

I just got a new cover for the BBQ and it’s all black and plastic-like. The rain we got today beaded up nicely.

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Venus & Jupiter & Crescent Moon

I told you! We got one last clear sunset to see Venus (at the bottom), Jupiter (at the top), and the 12% illuminated, three-day old crescent Moon before this cold, snowy storm moves into SoCal.

Stunning! This is using a hand-held iPhone in 30-gusting-to-40+ winds.

Using the big camera on a tripod there was a little less shaking and bouncing.

And close-up on the Moon and Jupiter. I was hoping to get a picture that showed a couple of Jupiter’s moons (three of the Galilean moons were visible) but with the wind, longer exposures look like modern art, not astrophotography.

You’ve got a day or two to see this with the Moon hanging around and a week to watch Jupiter and Venus get closer to each other. The closest approach will be March 1st. Then you have weeks to watch them pull apart. If you get a couple minutes after sunset and it’s clear, go take a few minutes to gander at our corner of the Universe!

That cold storm is definitely on its way. It was pushing 80º yesterday – tonight it was 43º headed to a low of 38º and with the wind the wind chill was right around freezing.

As for that even weirder weather headed our way, it’s a weather pattern that’s rare so there’s not a lot of baseline information in the computer models. For our location there’s still a chance of up to an inch of snow, but only down (as of the latest) to about 1,500 feet. Castle Peak (see in the bottom right of that first picture above) might get some snow on the top, as might the Santa Monica Mountains, south of us between the San Fernando and Conejo Valleys and the coast around Malibu. If we don’t have snow, we’ll get something on the order of 5″ of rain between now and Monday, so either way it’s going to be fun.


Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Weather