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Treebeard's Stumper
5 January 2001

Rain or Shine

It's hard to complain about this beautiful winter weather we're having in California, but it's not right. There were warm, gusty Santa Ana winds in L.A. on Christmas day, and wildfires in Ventura and San Diego. I don't want to use that d-word that rhymes with "shout," but it's been very dry since our early October rain. The hills are still brown. What a contrast with our El Niño floods just three years ago! Why is the weather so different this year? What is blocking our normal winter storms, and what is the outlook? I've included a separate page of Santa Barbara weather records and an Excel spreadsheet file. Are there patterns here?

We've had temperatures in the 80's this week at Dunn Middle School in the Santa Ynez Valley behind Santa Barbara in central California. It's dry. The hills are brown. There's an 11,000+ acre wildfire burning in San Diego County. If there are fires now, what will August be like? At the same time, there has been record cold across the country. It's not El Niño or La Niña this year.

What's happening?

I found it surprisingly difficult to find long-term rainfall records for Santa Barbara. It was easy to find yearly rain data going back to 1877. The National Weather Service (NWS) has monthly records back to 1941. I finally found month-by-month records going back to 1930 at the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), part of NOAA, but I had to extract the numbers from the big four-megabyte california.txt data file. NCDC offers free historical records for every state. The ultimate source for detailed weather info seems to be the NCDC Daily Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) that has thirty-one fields of daily weather data for 1064 stations across the country. But it's a 110 MB download (compressed!), way too much for my slow modem connection. The NCDC Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN) has weather data for the world. NCDC sells regional data reports. Don't we taxpayers already pay for this?

Santa Barbara Santa!


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Copyright © 2001 by Marc Kummel /