“The sky, a perfect empty canvas,
offers clouds nevertheless.
They shift and drift and beg interpretation …
such is the nature of art.”
~ Jeb Dickerson
Rain, rain, don’t go away! It seems the most recent winter storms have bypassed Southern California; only a few scant and immeasurable drops of rain fell. Although the clouds looked storm producing, once they moved south of Point Conception they failed to produce. Does this mean the predicted “Godzilla El Niño” is a no show? According to meteorologists, given the nature of El Niño during other heavy rain producing years, you had better keep sandbags filled and an umbrella in sight. Until then, enjoy the passing clouds.
Clouds on the horizon … a harbinger of doom and destruction or an answer to prayer? Either can be correct depending on the circumstances involved. Besides the concerning nature of clouds, these fluffy cotton puffs in the sky have been a source of fascination for thousands of years. Their beauty inspires great works of art, literature and philosophy. Aristotle in his 350 B.C. work “Meteorology” wrote the following: “… the finest and sweetest water is every day carried up and is dissolved into vapor and rises to the upper region, where it is condensed again by the cold and so returns to the earth.” However we choose to interpret clouds, there are solid scientific facts on them. The more interesting are:
• Cloud height can reach 14 miles.
• The cloudiest place on earth is South Africa’s Prince Edward Island. The least is Yuma, Arizona.
• Formation takes between a few minutes and an hour.
• Cirrus (high) clouds can move 100 mph
• Rain clouds are dark, due their thickness and density, blocking the light.
• The weight of an average cloud is 1.1 million pounds.
• Clouds can dissipate within seconds.
Weather experts say there is a lull in our rains because the storm track has temporarily shifted to the north. This is good news for the much-needed snow pack (currently at 101%); it continues to accumulate in northern California. Long breaks between rains also occurred during 1982-83 and 1997-98 El Niños. The consensus in the meteorology world is that El Niño remains strong and the West Coast is its target.
Temperatures in the 70s and breezy Santa Anas arrive with today’s paper. Friday night into Saturday a fast storm brings a 40% chance of rain. The forecast into next week calls for mild temperatures and clear skies. Until the rains come again, collect some Vitamin D.
Sue Kilpatrick is a
Crescenta Valley resident and
Official Skywarn Spotter for the
National Weather Service. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.