A great photo of a fair-weather winter sky (a.k.a. "transitory ridging")
Photos from a break in the week of storms

The Gathering Storm: A Preview of a Potentially Historic Week of Weather

As those of you who have been following the blog regularly know, 2009 was our third consecutive year of drought.  Among the drought's other impacts, we have seen yields decline each of the three yields, and in 2009 will make nearly 40% less wine than we did at our high-water mark in 2006.

All that looks like it is about to change.

We got off to a good start this winter with the massive October rainstorm that threatened harvest and dumped nearly 10 inches of rain on Tablas Creek.  In the three months since, we've seen only moderate rainfall, and sit this morning at just under 17 inches of rain for the winter.  That total is slightly above normal for this time of year, but without significant additional rainfall, we won't be able to make up three years of shortfall.

Enter this week's weather.  The infrared image below is from the NOAA's terrific library of satellite imagery from around the world.  Note the powerful plumes of moisture off both the Northern California and Southern California coasts.  Apparently, these are being drawn together by a jet stream that has moved unusually far south, and is pulling subtropical moisture from the south Pacific into a string of arctic storms that stretch nearly to the Aleutian Islands.


The net impact of this weather pattern (which is apparently not uncommon in el nino years) is that over the next week California's Central Coast is forecast to receive five separate storms, each of which is supposed to drop between half and inch and two inches in the valleys, with double or triple that in the mountains nearer the coast.  Do the math on that, and most locals are suggesting it would not be surprising for us to receive 20 inches of rainfall by next weekend.

This is the ideal time of year for us to receive this rain; the vineyard's cover crop is well established and we shouldn't see much erosion.  And it's still early enough in the winter for it to penetrate deeply and then dry out enough for us to get back in the vineyard for pruning.

In any case, it should be an exciting week.  I'll post every couple of days with updates.