Category Archives: weather|southern california

A Lot of Bluster, But Not Much Rain

Clouds associated with an upper level low north of Los Angeles

Yep, that was a rumble of thunder. It was a blustery, Spring-like afternoon and a storm cell had developed a few miles to the WNW of Lasky Mesa.

Before driving over to Ahmanson I’d checked the weather radar and seen cells circulating counterclockwise around a cold upper level low. Most were dissipating as they moved north to south, out over the Valley. The wildcard was that the upper low was moving southward, and the cells might strengthen.

Convective cell WNW of Lasky Mesa associated with a cold upper low north of Los Angeles
Storm cell WNW of Lasky Mesa.

Again there was a low rumble. The cell didn’t seem any closer, but now I could see additional development to the north and northeast of Ahmanson. I picked up the pace.

There’s nothing like the threat and energy of a thunderstorm to incentivize a runner. All the way back to the trailhead it looked like heck might break loose at any moment.

But it didn’t. It was just starting to rain when I got back to the car, and on the way home the streets were wet. The Cheeseboro RAWS recorded 0.06 inch of rain, as did Downtown Los Angeles (USC).

Even though the Rain and Water Year rainfall totals for Los Angeles are about normal for the date, January and February have seen little rain. Precipitation records for Los Angeles indicate the period January 1 to February 28 will be the fourth driest on record.

The precipitation outlooks for Southern California this March don’t look especially promising, with a typical La Nina precipitation pattern expected for the West Coast.

Some related posts: Clearing Skies at Ahmanson Ranch, Thunderstorm

Malibu Creek December 2021 Floods

Malibu Creek and Goat Buttes before sunrise
Malibu Creek and Goat Buttes before sunrise. February 6, 2022.

If you’ve done the Bulldog Loop since the first of the year, you’ve no doubt noticed there’s water in Malibu Creek again, and a lot of flood debris along the creek between Century Lake and the M.A.S.H. site. That’s all thanks to the extraordinary amount of rain we had in December. This pile of flood debris is near the old concrete bridge that washed out in the February 2017 flash flood.

This morning it was chilly along this section of creek, so it was worth a little effort to find a way across the creek with a high probability of staying dry. This sketchy log wasn’t one of them, but I found a fairly easy crossing a little upstream. Another runner mentioned there were a couple of planks across the creek just downstream of the old bridge.

Although stream gage data suggests that the peak flow was higher in February 2017, that was the result of one period of very heavy rainfall. In December 2021 there were peaks on three days, corresponding to three periods of rain.

Here’s a photo that shows the height of a debris pile along the Crags Road Trail, compared to a passing runner.

Related post: Malibu Creek Flooding

Finally — a Few Wildflowers!

Bush sunflower

As of March 1, Downtown Los Angeles had recorded only 1.99 inches rain over the past eight months. Most of that was recorded in one storm in early January. It was the second driest July 1 – February 28 on record.

Following the January storm, temperatures warmed up and stayed relatively warm for much of the next 30 days. In the West San Fernando Valley the high temperature hit 89 °F at Pierce College on February 4, and was over 80 °F for 12 consecutive days. Some plants (and some rattlesnakes) responded as if it was Spring.

In mid February Winter returned, with cool daytime temperatures and cold nights. There were Frost and Freeze Warnings on several nights.

In March the ridiculously resilient ridge of high pressure over the West Coast finally relented, resulting in above normal rainfall. It took awhile, but the March rain and April sun eventually produced an assortment of wildflowers.

Here are some wildflower photos from recent runs at Ahmanson Ranch, Malibu Creek State Park and Topanga State Park.

Running Between the Clouds

San Gabriel Peak, Mt. Disappointment and clouds from the Strawberry Peak Trail.

Unlike most of the rainy season, March rainfall has generally been above average in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. Last Saturday I’d enjoyed a run in Pt. Mugu State Park following a few days of wet weather, and today my outing would be in the wake of the strongest storm to affect the  area since January.

I was in the San Gabriel Mountains, and doing a get-your-hear-rate-up combo run I did last year — ascending San Gabriel Peak and Strawberry Peak from Red Box. The duo are the two highest peaks in the Front Range of the San Gabriel Mountains and have been popular for many years.

The storm had been a warm one, with high snow levels, and I was surprised to find the morning temperature at Red Box in the mid-30s. The surface low and trough associated with the storm were still along the West Coast and the circulation was creating a strong southwesterly flow. This was pushing mostly benign mid-level clouds into the valleys and mountains. More picturesque than threatening, the clouds imparted a high mountain flavor to the surroundings.

Last year I’d done San Gabriel Peak first, so today I started with Strawberry. It’s the more difficult of the two peaks. The route to its summit is about a mile longer; it has a bit more elevation gain; and it includes a stretch on rough, steep, unmaintained trail. Of course, that’s part of its appeal.

The clouds were ever changing. While Strawberry Peak escaped most of the clouds, San Gabriel Peak was often obscured.

Here are a few photos taken along the way.

Poison Oak Along the Backbone Trail

Poison Oak Along the Backbone Trail

Even though rainfall in the Los Angeles area is way below average this rain season, some plants along our local trails — such as this poison oak — are flourishing.

Flowering poison oak along the Backbone Trail.
Flowering poison oak. Click for larger image.

The growth of plants is dependent on a mind-boggling mix of interrelated factors. Maybe it was the rain in January in combination with the unseasonably warm weather in January and February. Or maybe there was some carryover in vitality from last year’s wet rain season. Or maybe it was something else. Whatever the case, poison oak in the Santa Monica Mountains seems to be doing very well this year!

The title photo is of poison oak along the Rogers Road segment of the Backbone Trail. It was taken March 10, 2018. Watch for overhanging branches!

Some related posts: Sweet Smell of Poison Oak, Find the Poison Oak, Large Poison Oak Leaves

Leaving Winter Behind

Valley oak, sun and clouds. Photography by Gary Valle'.

The wind blew in erratic gusts and a few cold raindrops fell against my bare arms and legs. To the north and west were more active cells, and I could see the telltale gray-white curtains of heavy rain just a couple miles away. I’d extended my run, just to enjoy the energetic feeling.

Much of this Winter it has been dry and warm in Southern California, with only a pittance of rain in the key months of December and February. It hasn’t been just a little dry — July through February was the second driest in Los Angeles on record.

But by the vagarities of Mother nature, a shift to a wetter weather pattern has occurred in the Eastern Pacific, bringing much-needed rain to California. While it won’t erase the rainfall deficit in the Los Angeles area, some rain is definitely better than none!