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2015 WEATHER NEWS: California Drought, Fire, El Nino and Floods? | High Sierra Backpacker

2015 WEATHER NEWS: California Drought, Fire, El Nino and Floods?

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 08 May 2015

Last Updated

                       December 30, 2015 

This is the collection point tracking the profound changes in seasonal weather patterns and the resulting chaos in the webs of life that we are experiencing through 2015.

See 2016 Climate Tracking

The last forty years of slowly but steadily drying conditions in the Sierra has rapidly transitioned into what could be characterized as the Drought Disaster and Fire phase over the last four years.

Current Events
 The firing-up of the biggest El Nino in recorded history very-very early in 2015 is now in late December pointing California and the Sierra towards potentially record precipitation on parched and burned terrain. Or not.

The behavior of the Arctic Circle and the recent tendency of great high pressure ridges to build off the coast of California during Winter are both capable of guiding El Nino moisture around California. Or pointing it at California, as discussed in our September backpacker alert.

Whoever gets hit by the vast streams of El Nino tropical moisture pumping out of the West-Central Pacific are going to get pounded. The effects of this El Nino have been predicted to, and are showing the potential to disrupt all North Hemisphere weather patterns as this vast plume of super-heated moisture makes its way around the world.

Our Sad History
I have tracked climate trends personally and through published research for decades, some of which I have posted. I have done this to inform my High Sierra backpacking trips, especially my Winter trips.
The radical changes in Winter conditions I observed over these trips from 1997 to 2011 (when I got frostbite), and through this year draw a clear line of change. These observations inspired me to do what I could to inform folks about what was happening, what it means, and what we must do to stop feeding these dire changes in what I call, "The Engines of Life."

What we are doing is akin to sawing off the branch of the tree of life we are sitting upon.

Here's a slice of this very sad history from 2007-9. All of our environmental problems have grown much more rapidly than they were anticipated to grow back then. 

Both our optimistic political rhetoric paired with our complete inability to admit the source of our ecological disaster is clearly centered in our completely irresponsible population growth and offshoring American manufacturing to polluting countries run by tyranical regimes. These practices are unabated from then to now and as far into the future as I can see.

We must stop the behaviors that created and are perpetuating environmental disaster for man and Nature. Then we must undo the problem itself. That would be addressing the greed that corrupted our institutions and has damaged every aspect of our country.

Post up links to interesting news or resources you find through the comment link below.

See the Weather Page for specific current High Sierra weather forecasts, resources, and information.

See the Backpacking Calendar for notes on tracking the specific progress of this year's seasons. Post up suggested calendar entries through the comments link below.


2016 Climate Tracking





Latest News: 

Freak storm in North Atlantic to lash UK, may push temperatures over 50 degrees above normal at North Pole, December 28, 2015, The Washington Post.

Also see the Ars Technica article from Dec. 2.


Tens of millions of trees in danger from California drought,
12-28-2015, Carnegie Institution.

Evergreens at risk,
12-21-2015, University of Delaware.

Arctic Chaos:

New research shows decline in population and breeding success of Antarctic seabird,
12-21-2015, British Antarctic Survey.

Melting sea ice increases Arctic precipitation, complicates climate predictions,
12-21-2015, Dartmouth College.

Methane emissions in Arctic cold season higher than expected,
12-21-2015, San Diego State University.


Earlier Postings:

Spread of algal toxin through marine food web broke records in 2015,
December 15th, 2015, University of California - Santa Cruz

Lakes warming at alarming rates, York U-led global study warns,
December 15th, 2015, York University.


Climate outlook may be worse than feared, global study suggests,
December 9th, 2015, University of Edinburgh.

North Slope permafrost thawing sooner than expected,
December 15th, 2015, University of Alaska Fairbanks.


Greenland glaciers retreating at record pace,
December 7th, 2015, The Earth Institute at Columbia University.


Cold, hot or dry: Persistent weather extremes associated with decreased storm activity . A decrease in storm activity over large parts of the US, Europe, Russia, and China is found to influence weather extremes,
December 11th, 2015, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)

Warmer air and sea, declining ice continue to trigger Arctic change
Fish and walruses moving in face of new challenges
December 15th, 2015, NOAA Headquarters.


New research shows Earth's tilt influences climate change,
December 14th, 2015, Louisiana State University.

Massive natural gas leak in Southern California may take months to plug,
December 2nd, Ars Technica.


Latest El Nino News

Study: Current climate models misrepresent El Niño. 
Clues to the fundamental physics of El Niño from millennia-old corals and clams,
December 15th, 2015, University of Southern California.

NASA examines global impacts of the 2015 El Nino,
December 15th, 2015, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.

US Pacific Northwest's extreme rainfall tallied by NASA's IMERG,
December 10th, 2015, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.

Satellite animation shows series of storms pummel Pacific Northwest,
December 9th, 2015, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.

Incredibly strong El Niño still developing, bringing surge of winter warmth,
Many large US cities recorded record-warm temperatures this fall.
 December 2nd, Ars Technica.


   Posted December 3, 2015 

Global warming disaster could suffocate life on planet Earth, research shows,
December 01, 2015, University of Leicester.

We Tread to the Edge:
Dissecting paleoclimate change,
December 02, 2015, University of California - Santa Barbara.

 "With this particular core, we hit it rich," Kennett said. "We opened a really clear window to view one of these glacial-to-interglacial transitions, providing a unique opportunity to determine just how fast the climate operated. We discovered that the changes were much faster than we ever thought possible, especially for these large shifts between a full ice age and a full interglacial. These are big events."

Global food system faces multiple threats from climate change,
December 02, 2015, National Center for Atmospheric Research/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.

Global effort 'needed to save migratory birds,
December 03, 2015, University of Queensland.

Local human activity altering global water footprint more than thought,
December 03, 2015, American Association for the Advancement of Science.

I don’t report “jokes” as news, so ignoring Paris conference is SOP, but this reflects an aspect of the absurd reality of our corporate governance:
Emissions rising too high despite the reduction targets set before the Paris negotiations,
December 03, 2015, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.


Salmon RIP?
December 02, 2015, East Bay Express.
Also see
N Cal Salmon failure, Cod too.

The height of Irresponsible Growth:
Kill Everything: The Megacity. 
It takes a village -- and much more -- to quench megacity water demands,
December 03, 2015, Michigan State University.

Note: Vast dead zones will be left in the dead footprints of our megacities for thousands of years. Just wait until they finish collapsing all the aquifers, as is currently being done in the San Joaquin Valley and throughout the West.


WMO: 2015 likely warmest year on record,
 Nov. 30, 2015, EarthSky.


Resources and News


Drought Monitor

Drought Outlook

US Drought Portal

Climate Prediction Center
Adjustable Outlooks Map

NOAA Climate Monitoring

Drought, Weather, Fire, & Snowpack News


El Nino
 ENSO Information

El Nino Outlook,
 Current Report

Lakes, Reservoirs, and Rivers 
California Major Reservoir Graphic

Daily Reservoir Storage Summary

California River Guidance Plots

 Water Level in Lake Powell


Fire and Smoke 
CalFire Red Flag and Fire Watches



Ca Smoke Information

All California Fire and Smoke Information


DROUGHT-New World Weather NEWS

Salmon RIP?
December 02, 2015, East Bay Express.
Also see
N Cal Salmon failure, Cod too.

WMO: 2015 likely warmest year on record,
Nov. 30, 2015, EarthSky.

Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s.
Anthropogenic warming and volcanic eruption sparked biggest change in 1,000 years,
Nov. 23, 2015, University of Plymouth.


USGS projects large loss of Alaska permafrost by 2100,
Nov. 28, 2015, United States Geological Survey.

Extreme heatwaves may hit Europe in the short term,
Nov. 27, 2015, European Commission Joint Research Centre.

No substantive evidence for 'pause' in global warming, study finds,
Nov. 24, 2015, University of Bristol.


"A complete blowout"
Absurdly hot October as Earth sets 8th heat record this year
November 18, 2015, AP.

Recent Storms Help Sierra Snowpack Not Water Supply,
November 19, 2015, Capital Public Radio.

Massive El Niño gains strength, likely to drench key California drought zone,
November 17, 2015, LAT.

Billions of People Depend on Water From Shrinking Snowpacks,
November 17, 2015, NYT.


Closed! Recreational Dungeness crab season postponed by state authorities,
Nov 5, 2015, San Jose Mercury News.

Dungeness crabs, the latest climate casualty,
Nov 5, 2015, Sac Bee.

Beware the Green Water


El Nino already disrupting ocean food web,
November 5, 2015, EarthSky.


Monarch butterflies fluttering back to Orange County, but populations struggle,
Oct 31, 2015, OC Register.


Laughing all the way to the Bank
Why a UCR economist says there is no drought,
Nov. 1, 2015, Riverside Press-Enterprise.

New York Prepares for Up to 6 Feet of Sea Level Rise,
November 2nd, 2015, Climate Central.

UM researchers document global connections between El Nino events and drought,
November 2, 2015, The University of Montana.


Local destabilization can cause complete loss of West Antarctica's ice masses,
November 2, 2015, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).
 (Also see May 21, below.)


 Pre-Cooked Cod 
New study: Warming waters a major factor in the collapse of New England cod,
 October 29, 2015,  Gulf of Maine Research Institute. 

Pre-Cooked Salmon
Feds: Winter salmon run nearly extinguished in California drought,
October 28, 2015, Sac Bee.

Lingering drought heightens worries of extinction for salmon,
  October 28, 2015, AP. 

Drought-driven salmon deaths could have far-reaching impact,
Oct 29, SF Gate.

Scott River flow ‘crisis’ preventing salmon spawning,
November 19, 2015, Eureka Times-Standard.


Cooking People Too... 
Study: Persian Gulf could experience deadly heat,
October 26, 2015, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Also See
Mosquitoes continue to spread, deadly results for birds.



NASA analyzes record-breaking Hurricane Patricia
Oct 23, 2015, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.

California 2100: More frequent and more severe droughts and floods likely,
 Oct 21, 2015, DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

 Animal Behavior & Range Changes
Large cluster of great whites surprises, concerns shark experts,
Oct 24, SF Chron.

Aggressive nonnative mosquitoes spreading across state carry disease risk,
Oct 24, 2015, LAT.


Another Weird Tropical Expression
Drenching rains, lightning pummel Valley, I-5 route through Grapevine,
Oct 15, Fresno Bee.
(This is the second major flash flood across a major So Cal highway. I-10 was closed by another flash flood during (a couple of months ago) and I-10 is still in "detour" mode from the extensive flash flood damage it took.)



El Niño: Wet winter likely across California, not just in south, new report says,
Oct 15, 2015, San Jose Mercury News.

Warm weather complicates El Niño, drought outlook,
 Oct 15, 2015, Sac Bee.



Here's the bottom Line: 

Use this tool to Ascertain Statistical Potentials: 
CPC Outlooks.
Adjust it to Precipitation>Long Lead Outlook, then scroll through the upcoming month's outlooks.


28 things to do to prepare for El Niño rains this season,
 Oct 16, LAT.


Folsom Lake hits lowest depths in 20-plus years,
 Sac Bee, October 14, 2015.


Freezing Overnight Temps begin in NW and North Central US/


A huge water district defends a secret handout. LAT,
September 29, 2015.
Bribe the politicians and they deliver our national wealth and resources to their bribemasters. This never works out well for regular citizens or Nature.


Drought Is Driving Beekeepers and Their Hives From California,
KQED, September 29, 2015.  


Arctic sea ice still too thick for regular shipping route through Northwest Passage,
York U, September 29, 2015. 


Large trees -- key climate influencers -- die first in drought, DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory,  September 29, 2015. Also See the Living Things Forum.


Exhausted, Starving Seabirds Continue To Swamp International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center, Yuba Net, Sep 24, 2015.


Sudden loss of water in Lassen County reservoir,
Sac Bee, September 23, 2015. 


2015 wildfire season a record-breaker,
Earth-Sky, September 21, 2015.

How much rain will it take to end California’s drought?
Whittier Daily News, September 20, 2015. 


Arctic sea ice summertime minimum is fourth lowest on record,
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, September 15, 2015.

Southland rain could be preview of the coming El Niño winter, experts say,
LAT,  September 15, 2015.


California fires: Worst may be yet to come as drought-parched landscape is primed to burn, SJ Mercury News, September 14, 2015.

“We don’t see an end to fire season for months to come,”
One dead, others missing in Lake County fire,
Sac Bee, September 14, 2015.

Meet the insect that helped fuel Northern California's Valley fire destruction,
LAT, Sept 14, 2015. 


New World
Sierra Nevada snowpack hit a 500-year low in 2015
LAT, Sept 13, 2015. 

New World
Valley fire spread with 'mind-boggling' speed, experts say, LAT, Sept 13, 2015. 


Vital El Nino Information 
El Nino Outlook,
 Current Report

System Complexity-Range of Expectations
Record-strength El Niño likely to bring wet winter to California in midst of worst drought on record,
Ca Weather, September 1, 2015.


Feds reduce flows out of Folsom Lake to conserve Sacramento region’s water supply, Sac Bee, Sept 1, 2015.

Is the drought killing California's giant sequoias?
LAT, August 29, 2015.


Unmitigated FILTH of Unrestricted, Irresponsible Growth:
How the drought has affected San Francisco's devastating lack of public restrooms, LAT, August 28, 2015. 

A nation of greedy pigs living in their own filth while celebrating their pursuit and consumption of wealth and power as the basis of our fundamental values, our "rationality" and motivation is not just disgusting.
Our behavior is in the process of crashing  our social standards, institutions, economy, and nature as we stand and watch, if not actively participate.

That's not the behavior of folks motivated by our own founding principals. It is unacceptable to all but the greedy and corrupted, the cheaters.

These are the behaviors of those who broke, and are still yet breaking our Constitutional principals and practices. Right in front of us.

You tell me what this behavior represents, and what it says about us. I can tell you one thing.

Karma is a bitch, as every previous evil empire and its "inhabitants" have discovered.

It's Only Just Begun...
July & First Seven Months of 2015 Hottest in Recorded History of Mankind, Global Summary Information - July 2015, NOAA.


Sinking Ship 
The Drought Is Sinking California,
Bloomberg, August 19, 2015.

Also See
Valley Contaminated, July-August 2015 News


The Quick Profits of Foolishness are Brief and Costly...
California drought impact pegged at $2.7 billion,
Sac Bee, August 18, 2015.


Vast Global Changes, 1
Up to 30 percent less precipitation in the Central Andes in future,
University of Zurich,  August 17, 2015. 


Vast Global Changes, 2
Substantial glacier ice loss in Central Asia's largest mountain range,
GFZ GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, Helmholtz Centre, August 17, 2015. 


Vast Global Changes, 3  
1,800 years of global ocestrongpstrong strongp an cooling halted by global warming,
University of Maryland,  August 17, 2015.


Massive late-season fire potential building.

 Clear lake tries to burn up.

JUNE 23 2015

Western wildfires: Firefighters battle blazes in 4 states,
AP, June 23, 2015.


 Along our High Sierra Trail Routes
15,000-acre blaze south of Lake Tahoe threatens historic town,
SF Gate, June 22, 2015.



Silver Creek  is NE of Ebbetts Pass, running down along Highway 4 East of the pass. Smoke blowing East, as not to torture nearby hikers along the PCT.

Check for road closures on Hwys 4 and 89.
CalTrans Highway 4

CalTrans Highway 89

Washington wildfire in California,
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, June 22, 2015.


Lake fire and San Gorgonio fire in California
 NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, June 22, 2015.


JUNE 8  
Fire Season Begins
According to LA Times

According to NPR

CalFire Red Flag and Fire Watches



Ca Smoke Information


JUNE 2015

UC Davis study finds dry weather threatening California wildflowers,
SacBee, June 22, 2015.


Master-planned community will get water under new agreement,
LAT, June 22, 2015.

Deepest drought issue: Beyond shallow look at groundwater,
Fresno Bee, June 20, 2015.


 Martial (Water) Law Declared
Legislature passes anti-drought measure imposing fines, water system consolidation, Sac Bee, June 19, 2015.

State water board faces suits over drought cutbacks,
SF Chron, June 18, 2015.

Drought devastates cherry crop, puts some growers out of business,
LAT, June 19, 2015.

Toxic algae bloom shuts down West Coast fisheries,
LAT, June 19, 2015.


The Greed that Destroyed our Values, Nation, and State:
Rich Californians balk at limits: ‘We’re not all equal when it comes to water,’
WP, June 13, 2015.


NOT a Drought:
Pope Francis warns of destruction of world's ecosystem in leaked encyclical,
Guardian, June 15, 2015.

We are just taking the middle steps of our already-begun journey to "The new Normal." The fun has only just begun...


Why drought doesn't dry up home building,
SD-UT, June 14, 2015.

Challenges face tule elk management in Point Reyes National Seashore,
CoCo Times, June 15, 2015.


Historic Action
Senior Water Rights Curtailed in Delta, San Joaquin & Sacramento Watersheds, pdf,
State Water Board, June 12, 2015.

El Nino Outlook,
June 11, 2015.
"Synopsis: There is a greater than 90% chance that El Niño will continue through Northern Hemisphere fall 2015, and around an 85% chance it will last through the 2015-16 winter."

MJO Update,
NOAA, June 8, 2015.


Blanca breaks up hitting Southwest US,
NASA, June 10, 2015.


California's Rice Crop Predicted To Be 30 Percent Below Normal,
CPR, June 9, 2015.

Drought and record-breaking heat are bad combination as fire season begins,
LAT, June 9, 2015.

Drought hastens decline of the Joshua tree, California's desert symbol,
LAT, June 6, 2015.


Imperiled fish add to California’s drought stress,
Sac Bee, June 6, 2015.


Drought Monitor Update: June 2, 2015
'Extreme' Drought Expands In California, CPR, June 4, 2015.

Rapid Arctic ice loss linked to extreme weather changes in Europe and US,
Guardian, June 1, 2015.
Also See:
Arctic Warming


Water Getting Expensive, soon restricted:
L.A. County drought plan,
LAT, June 1, 2015.

Added Late:
How California's Drought Is Reshaping Small Businesses,
Bloomberg, May 27, 2015.


MAY 2015

Wet May pushes Lake Tahoe back up to natural rim,
AP, May 31, 2015.

May 29 
Could Texas deluge be a sign to drought-ravaged California?
SF Gate, May 29, 2015. 
 Also See:

May 28
Severe flooding hits central Texas, Oklahoma,
NASA, May 28, 2015.
Also See:
7 day to 6 month Rainfall Anomalies

May 28
California drought: Farmers’ ‘senior’ water rights under siege,
LA Daily News, May 28, 2015.

May 27
Global climate on verge of multi-decadal change,
NOC, May 27, 2015.

Glacier changes at the top of the world,
European Geosciences Union, May 27, 2015. 


May 25
"Inflection Point" hit, nighttime temps above freezing across Sierra Crest.
This would be the start of the Spring Thaw surge, if we had a snowpack...
Also See:
7 Day US Freezing Temps


May 22
NEW May 21 to August 31 US Seasonal Drought Outlook:
Intense Drought Persists in West/Southwest.

NEW June through August Sierra Precip: Normal

NEW June through August Sierra Temps: Far Above Normal
Adjust interface date range for specific readouts. 
El Nino strength forecasted to bring  up to 50% more precipitation
to the Central Plains and South-Central US.

May 22
Unsettled, unstable weather over Sierra consisting of dense cloud cover
  with light rain, thunderstorms and snow starting around May 6 and persisting for 21 days to the 27th has made life difficult for PCT hikers entering the Sierra without having any material effect mitigating drought conditions.

This weather has put the drying-out process in the High Sierra into what I
  would characterize as "suspended animation." (May 6-27)


The winners and the losers of the California water crisis, Taylor and Francis, Science Daily, May 22, 2015.


Inland ice in Antarctica melting fast, AAAS, May 21, 2015.


  New evidence links Arctic warming with severe weather, University of Sheffield, May 20, 2015.


Pacific ‘blob’ is changing weather patterns, Earth-Sky, May 18, 2015.
ENSO: Track the Blob.

Climate change altering frequency, intensity of hurricanes, FSU, May 18, 2015.

Exposure of US population to extreme heat could quadruple by mid-century, National Center for Atmospheric Research/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, May 18, 2015.


Even El Niño won't end state's drought,
UT San Diego, May 17, 2015.

California water officials deliver sobering facts on depleted wells,
LAT, May 17, 2015.


 Annual Siberian Fire from Space,
 NASA, Goddard, May 14, 2915, 

As Delta Smelt Nears Extinction, New Concerns Emerge Over Dredging
KQED, May 14, 2015


El Nino strengthens. Hope for serious drought relief?,
LAT, May 14, 2015.

 El Ni​ño will last through summer, says US climate center,
Guardian, May 14, 2015.


California seeking help from landowners to save coho salmon,
Press Dem, May 13, 2015.

Intense Wildfire Season Expected in West
Livescience, May 5, 2015

California wildfire concerns rise after drought kills 12.5m trees,
Guardian, May 8


Gulf Stream Breaking Down?
Science Daily, 3-23-15

Yosemite Hiker Lost, Found
ABC 30, 3-23-15

Are Humans the Death of Nature?
"How we became nature – Anthropocene"
A Scientific Review of Humanity, 3-17-15

Op-Ed LA Times
March 12, 2015
"California has about one year of water stored"
 Jay Famiglietti, senior NASA water scientist. Also see the weather page for drought outlook and status reports, as well as fire and smoke information.


Above Normal Temperatures Melts 'Dismal' Sierra Nevada Snowpack,
 Calfornia Public Radio, February 19.

Some Historical Context

California drought the worst in 1,200 years, new study says, San J Mercury, Exposure of US population to extreme heat could quadruple by mid-century, May 12, 2014. 


 See the backpacking calendar for notes on the progress of the seasons. Post up suggested calendar entries through the comments link below.


2016 Climate Tracking



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