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Treebeard's Stumper
2 March 2001

Keeping Warm

With continuing cold weather and California power shortages, it's a good time to think about how we use energy at home and school. I only need hot water at home in the morning and evening. Should I leave my water heater on all the time, because it takes so much energy to heat up all that water after it cools down? Or should I just heat the water when I actually need it? Similarly, if no one will be in my classroom at school during lunch on a cold day, should I turn down the thermostat for the hour, or will that require even more energy to reheat the building when we return?

Ry and Mojo in the 105° hot tub during a recent snowfall at our home in the mountains behind Santa Barbara. This is an extreme heat loss situation! It felt great after clearing the damaged trees blocking our road. Maybe redwood hot tubs in the snow will become the new Santa Barbara tradition.

Weather Note: We literally had Seattle's weather in Santa Barbara this February, with rain or snow on 15 of the last 20 days of the month. (And Seattle got our earthquake! Jim B. pointed me to this interesting site on Earthquake As Artist.) The local Santa Barbara Newspress gave this account on March 2, 2001:

February was also colder and drearier than usual, said meteorologist Bill Hoffer at the National Weather Service office in Oxnard. High temperatures averaged 59.9 degrees, or 5 degrees below normal. "It was one wicked month," said Hoffer. "We had winter storm watches and advisories out much of the month. It was not the exception. It was the usual."

The reason: The semi-permanent high-pressure area that normally sits off our coast "almost complete dissipated," he said. That opened the door for a huge low-pressure area in the Gulf of Alaska to move in. "The jet stream aloft which moved south and came up over our area caused a tremendous amount of cold temperatures and moisture throughout the month," he said. "Normally this weather would go to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. We received all of Seattle's weather."

This resulted in one of the oddest months in memory in terms of the weather. Not only did Santa Barbara Municipal Airport set a new high temperature record of 81 degrees on Feb. 4, but four days later, it tied a 43-year-old low temperature mark of 33 degrees. That ushered in a remarkable 20 days when daily temperatures topped 60 degrees only twice. On Feb. 13, snow fell down to the 900-foot level below San Marcos Pass and Highway 154 was closed for about 12 hours.

The preliminary NWS February 2001 Monthly Summary for Santa Barbara is available. What a change from our very dry autumn this year! (That was my Rain or Shine (5 Jan 2001) stumper, which has links and much info about our local weather.) We've now had 4 to 12 inches of snow on San Marcos Pass in each of the past three years: 15 March 1999, 6 March 2000, and now 13 February 2001. This time it snowed all day and stayed on the ground, so I had two snow days home from school! Before this, the last heavy snowfall was twenty years ago in 1981. And last Sunday we got 13+ inches of rain in one storm. This is global warming?!

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Copyright © 2001 by Marc Kummel / mkummel@rain.org