Aboard the Pineapple Express
By Dennis McTighe
Winter officially began this past Tuesday at 3:38 p.m. The Earth tilts away from the Sun at it’s most severe angle here in the Northern Hemisphere at 23.5 degrees, with the least amount of sun time at 9 hours and 54 minutes and a sunrise and set at 6:54 a.m. and 4:48 p.m., respectively. The sun will start setting after 5 p.m. on Jan. 8 and by month’s end set at 5:18 p.m. We have a ways to go before we come out of these dark ages.
As of 3 p.m. Tuesday our season rain total in Laguna is over 10 inches, compared to a normal of 3.6 inches as of Dec. 21. At this rate, we could eclipse our whole seasonal normal of 13.85 inches by New Year’s Day. The latest forecast from the NOAA predicts rain at the hourly rate of 1-2 inches per hour, a severe thunderstorm warning, a chance of tornadoes in the coastal plain of Orange County, and hail as colder air converges with the flow of subtropical air (aka the Pineapple Express).
Since last Friday, some communities in Los Angeles County have collected over 18 inches of rain, springing to memory the Biblical floods of 1969. Those, too, were spawned by the same phenomena known as the Pineapple Express, a 3,000 mile long river of tropical moisture flowing from southwest of Hawaii northeast to the U.S. mainland focusing the main energy on Central and Southern California. One significant feature of the “Express” is the Southwestern deserts get a drenching too. Las Vegas receives an annual rainfall of 4 inches, most of that falling in the form of summer thunderstorms. Since last Friday alone, nearly the whole year’s worth has fallen. This is largely due to the unusual direction in which the moisture is coming. Instead of the normal northwest to southeast direction, when moisture is squeezed out by our mountains, it sneaks in from the south and southwest allowing the moisture stream to penetrate much farther inland. Normally parched desert communities get in on the action. So expect brilliant early spring flowers this time around.
With all the rain this fall in Southern California, not one single wildfire! When’s the last time that’s happened? Santa Claus is tired so be naughty and save him a trip! Happy Holidays!
Dennis McTighe served as a meteorologist at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii from 1969 to 1972, and was an NOAA forecaster and earned a degree in Earth Sciences from UC San Diego and has been keeping daily weather records since 1958.