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Why Won't It Rain? Blame This "Ridiculously Resilient Ridge"
Scott Lucas | Photo: Courtesy Weather West | January 16, 2014
Meet the air pressure system of climatologists' nightmares.
Since July 1st, San Francisco has received just 2.1 inches of rain. That's only 20 percent of the normal amount. And we're not the only ones living in a desiccated smogbowl. The whole state is suffering from a lack of rain. San Jose is at 26 percent of normal, Oakland is at 22 percent, and several major reservoirs are holding half the water that they should be at this time of year. This is bad. And don't even talk to us about the skiing season in Tahoe.
But unlike the Chris Christie administration, it's not hard to finger the culprit. Our enemy is a mass of high pressure air that has taken up residence over the Pacific Ocean and is pushing rain clouds north towards Canada. Scientists have coined a name for this menace: the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge. Here's what you need to know about this evil, evil thing.
How bad is our rainfall problem right now?
It's pretty bad, man. Pretty bad. In many cities, last year was the driest on record and this time around may be worse. As one climate scientist put it, "nearly the entire state is currently experiencing dryness that hasn’t been experienced in living memory."
What's preventing the rain from reaching us? Is it a Canadian plot?
No, you can't blame Canada. This time.
So what is it?
It's a high pressure system that some clever, aliteration-loving scientist has dubbed the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge that's parked over the Pacific Ocean.
That's a pretty great name. Who came up with it?
Daniel Swain, a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford. He writes a weather and climate blog that's basically required reading if this is your kind of thing. His most recent post: "The Ridiculously Resilient Ridge remains resolutely recalcitrant." Which is just a rad sentence.
Tell me more about dastardly Ridge.
It's four miles high and 2,000 miles long. What it does is to force the rain coming east up to the north and away from us. It's been in place since December of 2012, which is a long time for something like this. These kinds of zones tend to form and then disappear. This one just hasn't gone away yet. There was also a similar ridge that formed back in 1976 and '77, which led to one of our worst droughts on record.
See, I told you it was Canada.
Well slow down there, it may actually be climate change. Scientists aren't sure. But remember: As the globe heats up, the weather is going to get weirder and weirder. Crazy unexpected stuff is the new normal.
Jerry Brown can save me though, right?
Sorry to tell you, but Jerry has to level up in his Zen training at least three more times before he gains the power to make it rain through his meditation. For right now, the best that the state can do is to declare an official drought. Brown has indicated that he might do that on February 1st, if conditions don't improve. That declaration would allow state and local governments to move water around more efficiently, so at least we would be able to prioritize the use of what we have.
What should I do?
For now it can't hurt to conserve water. We recommend taking a shower with a friend.