Monday, December 21, 2015

North state dreaming of a wet, white Christmas

The last time I've been able to use the phrase "persistent parade of rain clouds" to describe a series of storms in our area was in the winter of 2010-2011, when we had a December much like this one. What we've seen lately, and what we expect to see for the remainder of the week, would certainly qualify.

The latest outlook from the National Weather Service:
An active pattern continues. A Strong storm Christmas Eve

Impacts
Slick roads from rain & snow
Chain controls, travel delays over the mountains
Low potential for debris flows on burn scars ( Burn scars graphic)

Timing and Strength
Brief break tonight, then wet pattern resumes Sunday
Heavy snow over Buckhorn Summit along highway 299 Sunday morning.
Heaviest Sunday afternoon and evening impacting travel over Sierra Passes
Snow levels briefly down to 3000 feet over the Sierra
Strong storm possible Christmas Eve into Christmas Day with low snow levels

Weather Summary
Snow will bring another round of travel issues for people traveling over the mountains with snow levels 2000-3000 feet, but rising through Tuesday. Check out this video for timing.

Monday afternoon and Tuesday another wave with some fluctuating snow levels as warm air moves over the area.

Burn Scars: Moderate amounts of rain will be possible through Tuesday. However, at this time amounts look below debris flow thresholds. However smaller creeks within scars could see rapid rises and some minor runoff within the scars.

Storm for Christmas Eve is looking impressive with widespread impacts possible into Christmas Day. We'll keep watching and update the situation as we get closer.
As we've reported today (via AP), the Sierras are being dumped on today with lots of new, fresh Christmas snow -- enough to bring a few Frostys to life. And as Mitch Lies reports for the Capital Press, at least one expert thinks this winter's El Nino will be so strong that the Pacific Northwest -- usually left dry by the phenomenon -- will get in on the abundance of precipitation.

We're keeping an eye on the storms as they develop. Check here and at CapitalPress.com for updates.

Friday, December 18, 2015

LaMalfa votes no on $1.1T spending bill

The north state's Rep. Doug LaMalfa today voted against the $1.1 trillion spending package to fund the federal government through September 2016.

Here is his statement:

“We knew going in that Speaker Ryan was working to make the best of the bad hand he was dealt when he was chosen to lead the House. However, I could not support the final product of negotiations.

“This bill contains some very positive components. It increases pay for our troops, closes loopholes in our Visa Waiver Program so we know who is entering our country, and funds health benefits for 9/11 first responders. It accelerates approval of Sites Reservoir, completing the decades-long study of a project that Californians so clearly need. The measure also frees up millions in federal funds provided to North State transportation projects that were never built, allowing more highway and road improvements without spending new funds.

“However, the bill increases spending at a time when the federal debt has reached astounding levels and leaves a number of issues on the table. The administration’s Waters of the United States power grab, already rejected by two federal courts, remains in place, as does the President’s immigration plan.

“Ultimately, the growing deficit and the likelihood of interest rate increases indicate that debt service will be an increasingly larger responsibility for Congress, a problem this bill makes worse.

“In order to truly reform the government, we must look beyond the third of federal spending in this bill and address the autopilot programs that run the nation farther into the red every year. I am committed to working with the Speaker to put our nation back on sound footing by simplifying our tax code, reforming autopilot spending, and replacing Obamacare.”

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Chicken council applauds proposed COOL repeal

The National Chicken Council is applauding the omnibus spending package negotiated in Congress, which repeals the controversial country-of-origin meat-labeling rule on the eve of anticipated retaliatory tariffs on American-made goods by Canada and Mexico.

In an emailed statement, NCC President Mike Brown said the following:

“The National Chicken Council is pleased that Congress is poised to repeal the mandatory country-of-origin labeling regulations for beef and pork, which have twice been deemed illegal by the WTO. The retaliatory tariffs awarded by the WTO to Mexico and Canada totaling over $1 billion should not now be levied against any of our chicken and fowl products, or any other American goods. This is a victory for all U.S. agricultural products and a win-win for U.S. chicken producers and consumers. When at the meat case, consumers seeking chicken made in the USA can continue to readily identify these products of American origin.”

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Next big rain to arrive Thursday, another for Christmas

Our pattern of about two major storms a week will continue through Christmas. From the National Weather Service:
Wet Pattern Thursday Through Next Week Will Impact Holiday Travel

Impacts
Slick roads from rain & snow
Chain controls, travel delays over the mountains
Localized urban and small stream flooding possible
Potential for debris flows on burn scars

Forecast Confidence
Medium

Timing and Strength
Several waves of rain/snow expected Thursday through Christmas. Current models suggest heaviest precipitation could occur:
Friday afternoon - Saturday afternoon
Late Sunday - early Tuesday
See graphic for potential precipitation amounts through Monday (NOTE: additional rain/snow will continue Tuesday into Christmas)
Snow levels will vary between 4500 to 6000 ft
Winds will be breezy to gusty at times

Weather Summary
An active weather pattern will bring rain & snow to NorCal starting Thursday and continuing through next week. With holiday traffic next week, this wet pattern will increase the chances for accidents & delays. This extended wet pattern will also enhance the possibility of localized flooding & burn scar debris flows.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Cattlemen: report proves EPA's 'radical agenda'

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association asserts that today's Government Accounting Office report criticizing federal efforts on social media to promote the Waters of the U.S. rule proves the Environmental Protection Agency has a "radical agenda."

From the NCBA:
In a decision today from the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, the GAO found that the Environmental Protection Agency violated federal law in promoting the agency’s “waters of the United States” rule. The decision found the EPA engaged in covert propaganda and grassroots lobbying to support the WOTUS rule. Philip Ellis, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association president, said this report confirms what producers have long suspected: an agency with a radical agenda.

“The WOTUS rule is a flawed rule from a flawed process, and we thank Senator Inhofe (R-Okla.) for calling attention to this clear violation of the law,” said Ellis. “The EPA’s zealous advocacy of their rule in violation of federal law shows the extremes to which this administration will go to subvert public opinion in favor of their far-reaching environmental agenda.”

The GAO decision finds that the EPA’s use of Thunderclap, in which a single social media message can be shared across multiple Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr accounts at the same time, was a prohibited use of EPA’s appropriations for unauthorized publicity or propaganda purposes.

“From the start, the EPA’s use of social media and particularly Thunderclap, raised concerns with stakeholders opposed to the WOTUS rule,” said Ellis. “The use of these messages, without attribution to the agency, was clearly intended to deceive the public to engage in the spread of EPA’s propaganda without consideration of the rulemaking process. By crafting the social media message to appear grassroots, the EPA misused tax-payer funds to support expansion of federal jurisdiction.”

The GAO also found that the agency’s website links to policy engagements on the Natural Resources Defense Council and Surfrider Foundation webpages constituted grassroots lobbying in violation of the grassroots lobbying prohibition.

“The Army Corps’ of Engineers has raised concerns that the EPA exaggerated the scientific basis for their jurisdictional determinations, the courts have twice found rationale to halt implementation of the rule, and both Chambers of Congress have taken action to withdraw the rule,” said Ellis. “It is time for Congress to act to fully defund implementation of the WOTUS rule and bring accountability to the EPA.”

The GAO’s general counsel has advised the EPA to report the violations and the costs associated with the violation of the law to the President and Congress as required by the Antideficiency Act.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Almond board wants to step up innovations

I'm on a call this afternoon with the Almond Board of California, which wants to step up the industry's farming efficiency and environmental stewardship. Here is the organization's press release.
Almond Board of California (ABC) today launched Accelerated Innovation Management (AIM), a major new strategic effort designed to make the almond industry even more efficient and sustainable.1 “Through our Accelerated Innovation Management program, the Almond Board will accelerate its investment in sustainability1, almond tree and farming research, and step up efforts to develop new partnerships and collaborations, which will drive four major initiatives to move the entire industry forward,” said Richard Waycott, President and CEO of the Almond Board of California. The four major initiatives are:

Water Management and Efficiency - A focus on accelerating almond farmer transition to more efficient irrigation scheduling and management practices to get the most crop per drop of water. This initiative, which builds on the 33 percent reduction in water used per pound of almonds achieved by the industry over the last 20 years1, includes a range of activities from working with farmers to fine tune irrigation techniques to adopting more advanced water management technologies.

Sustainable1 Water Resources - An exploration of how to best leverage a unique strength of the California Almond industry, its acreage, for accelerating natural flood-year groundwater recharge of aquifers. California’s aquifers are collectively the state’s largest water storage system and water recharged through this program would benefit all Californians, not just farmers. A second part of this initiative will look for opportunities to recycle water from multiple sources, such as municipal wastewater, as a way of increasing overall water availability for farmers and all Californians.

Air Quality - Investigating various ways the almond industry can help meet the Central Valley’s exacting air quality standards. This will delve into the various ways almond production impacts air quality and evaluate opportunities to decrease emissions. From analyzing industry fossil fuel use to small- and large-particle pollutants, all components of almond farming that impact air quality are under scrutiny. This initiative will identify alternatives that will result in cleaner air for all those who live in California’s Central Valley – farmers, their families, and surrounding communities.

22nd Century Agronomics - A recognition that we need to better understand and then adopt the technologies that will lead California farming into the 22nd century. Almond Board of California will lead a comprehensive exploration of almond farming techniques, bringing an exploratory mindset to consider all options as to what innovations and technical “leap frogs” will be needed to sustainably1 farm in the future. Each component of almond farming will be considered, from land preparation and varietal development, to equipment and processing.

Waycott noted significant progress already on two of the initiatives – Sustainable1 Water Resources and Air Quality -- and said that the industry will keep consumers and customers apprised of major research projects in these and the other initiative areas in the months and years ahead.

“Our recent partnership with Sustainable Conservation is exploring the potential of using California almond orchards for accelerated recharge of Central Valley groundwater. Research this winter will channel excess winter flood water into almond orchards in several test sites, including Merced, Stanislaus, and Fresno counties where a UC Davis study will track soil moisture and water movement, tree response, detailed root development and growth response,” Waycott said.

“On air quality, the Almond Board, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and others are carrying out a new USDA-funded pilot project designed to give both almond and corn growers greater access to greenhouse gas markets like those under California's cap-and-trade program,” Waycott said. The project builds on nearly ten years of funding by the Almond Board of California to improve nitrogen management and better understand greenhouse gas emissions, particularly nitrous oxide (N2O), from almond orchards.

The EDF project also dovetails with Almond Board-funded research to understand better the energy flows and the associated greenhouse gases over the average 25 years of an almond orchard's life. Life Cycle Analysis research on growing almonds by UC Davis showed that the industry could become carbon neutral, or even negative, if policy changes and production advancements work hand-in-hand.2

“Farmers are innovators. Since almonds were first planted in California, over 150 years ago, almond growers have adapted, changed, and pushed ahead to improve best practices and develop new technologies. The Almond Board’s research programs have driven this innovation since their inception in 1973 and through this new program, we carry on and accelerate that important tradition,” Waycott said.

“We will make investments today that will put the entire industry in a stronger position 10, 20, or 30 years from now. Already a leader in the size and value of our crop to California, the AIM initiatives will take our industry’s leadership to the next level with innovation responsive to the changing California business and agricultural environment. Above all, we want Californians to know almonds are a desirable and high-value use of precious resources entrusted and allocated to growing food in California,” Waycott added.

AIM will complement the California almond industry’s legacy of continuous improvement through over 40 years of research. With a more nimble and adaptive program, AIM will implement commonsense guidelines, develop innovative practices and cultivate advanced technologies that will lead to continued improvement in efficient and sustainable1 farming.

“For decades, the Almond Board has invested millions of dollars in critical research leading to important advancements which continue to support almond growers as good stewards of the land,” Waycott said. “In fact, over the last two decades, industry-funded research overseen by the Almond Board has allowed farmers to reduce the amount of water used to grow a pound of almonds by 33 percent. Our research has also helped develop orchard practices that better promote healthy environments for honey bees and ensure the safety of workers, local communities and ecosystems. The California almond community understands the value of critical research, and we’re doubling down on this important work.”
Watch for my story at CapitalPress.com.

Big storm to dump 'heavy snow' through Friday

Winter is here. From the National Weather Service:
Wet Storm to Bring Heavy Snow Thursday Through Early Friday

Impacts

Travel hazards from winter road conditions Thursday into early Friday, especially over Sierra passes
Snow will be heavy and wet in nature "Sierra Cement" (added)
Debris flows possible over recently burned areas
Localized flooding from wind-blown leaves clogging drains/gutters
Localized power outages & downed branches

Forecast Confidence
High for wet pattern Wednesday-Friday
High for heavy snow Thursday-early Friday
Snow level (7300 ft) Thursday morning, dropping below 5000 ft in the early evening(Slowed timing)
Medium for gusty winds Thursday afternoon and evening
Medium for exact precipitation amounts due to model variability
Low for Thursday afternoon thunderstorms
Low for debris flows over recently burned areas(added)

Timing and Strength
Starts Wednesday, heaviest precipitation Thursday, tapering off Friday
Heaviest snow impacting travel over Sierra passes expected between 10 am Thursday morning through 10 pm Thursday evening
Winds: Gusts up to 35 mph in the Valley with gusts 50+ mph near Sierra crest
Precipitation: 0.5-1.5" in the Valley, 2-4" Foothills/Mountains
Snow: 12-18" Sierra pass summit, 4-8" inches 5000 feet, up to 2 feet over high peaks(Lowered amounts)
Debris Flows: Best potential Thursday afternoon and Thursday night from thunderstorms

Weather Summary

A series of storms will bring a wet pattern from mid to late week, with periods of Valley rain and heavy high mountain snow. Warm air ahead of this system will delay the lowering of snow levels to during the day Thursday. Snow will begin to impact pass level traffic Thursday mid morning and continue to drop by Friday to around 4000 feet. Heaviest precipitation will be on Thursday, with over a foot of new snow possible above 6000 feet and the potential for 2 feet over high peaks. Rain storm total amounts around 0.5-1.5" projected for the Valley, with liquid equivalent for the mountains up to 2-4".
There is a slight chance for thunderstorms with locally heavy rain Thursday afternoon and evening. However, confidence is low as to where the storms will develop in relation to specific burn areas if they develop at all. Leaves clogging drains may cause local ponding and/or minor flooding of roads. Breezy southerly winds expected in the Valley with gusts up to 35 mph, with winds gusting to 50+ mph along the Sierra crest. Snow will be heavy and wet "Sierra Cement". This type of snow combined with the wind could cause local power outages, and whiteout conditions over mountains. Travel over Trans Sierra passes will be impacted Thursday, so plan accordingly.

Confidence continues to improved for a wet/snowy system to impact the area on the weekend, mainly on Sunday.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The latest on this weekend's storm

More rain is coming, which is an exceedingly good thing. From the National Weather Service:
Sunday Weather System to Impact Marathon and Mountain Travel

Impacts

Rain to impact California International Marathon
Snow along and north of I-80 will impact travel

Forecast Confidence
Medium

Timing and Strength
Rain late Saturday night through Sunday afternoon
Amounts generally less than 0.50" north of I-80, with up to 1.00" possible in the northern-most portions of the valley
Snow above 4000 feet north and 5000 feet along I-80 Sunday
Heaviest snow anticipated in the morning hours Sunday

Weather Summary

Our next weather system is expected to move into the area late Saturday through Sunday. This is a weaker system overall, but can still impact travel over the mountain passes on Sunday. Rain may also impact the California International Marathon on Sunday morning. Participants and spectators should plan for wet and cool weather.

System will quickly exit the region by Sunday night.
No word on whether rain will arrive in time for Saturday night's Redding parade, but if it comes late in the evening, the parade should be spared.