Rain, Drought and the Omens: Fernwood Rain Report

By Eric Fitzgerald
By Eric Fitzgerald

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“Red sky at night is a sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning is a sailor’s fair warning.” —Old Seafarer’s Saying “When in evening, ye say, it will be fair weather: For the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather today; for the sky is red and lowering.” —Jesus Christ, Matthew 16:2-3
CHART: Eric Fitzgerald
There is some science behind these ancient adages. Because, generally, the Jetstream goes from west to east, most weather comes to us from the west and the rising or setting sun shines through the thickest part of the atmosphere. When the sunlight travels through a lot of dust, the blue wavelengths are scattered leaving the red wavelengths to pass through. This phenomenon often indicates high pressure on the barometer—or fair weather. In the simplest terms, if that high pressure is in the west, as it would be at sunset, then the red sky we see is a preview of the fair weather that the prevailing winds are sending us from the west.

When a red sky is seen in the morning, this often means that the high pressure has passed us by, and those red sunrays are lighting up the undersides of the clouds riding the Jetstream out of the stormy west.

Another omen of rain that has a sound meteorological basis is a ring around the Sun or the Moon. The ring is caused by ice crystals in the upper atmosphere. These ice crystals can indicate at least one component in an approaching storm front—a cold upper atmosphere with some moisture starting to mix in from lower altitudes.

Juanito looked and cried excitedly, “Look, there’s a ring around the moon!”

Joseph laughed harshly and climbed into the saddle. “There is a saying in this country, I learned a long time ago: ‘In a dry year all signs fail.’ Good night Juanito.”
—John Steinbeck, To a God Unknown

While it is still too soon to say if the drought in Southern California has returned, 2021 is starting off as a dry year. As of press time, we’ve only received 1.51 inches of rain here in Fernwood since October 1, 2020. The rain year runs October 1 through September 30 of the following year. The National Weather Service sees no rain in the various weather models through at least the 21 of January. February and January are typically our wettest months.

This puts us 7.54 Inches behind average for the rain year. It’s hard to imagine that we will make up this precious moisture as the rainy season continues. We are currently experiencing a La Niña condition in the Southern Pacific and this drier-than-average indicator is expected to persist through the winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

So, as John Steinbeck wrote “In a dry year all signs fail.”

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January 22, 2021

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