California weather (or the lack thereof)

Michael Herman

I am a resident of California (Groveland, to be exact, in the Sierra Nevadas just outside of Yosemite National Park) and find the weather here rather dull. Being born and raised in the midwest (Illinois, in the Chicago area), I miss the great summer lightning shows. Our rainy season is winter, where (believe it or not) it barely snows in my area. These hills make for interesting observations, though. There seem to be microclimates around every corner. In one area it could be snowing, another raining, and near my home the sun is peaking through the clouds. Meteorologists here seem to be excited at the sight of a raincloud... Very boring.
Has anyone else felt the weather in your area seem lifeless? Like Mother Nature passed you by? Or am I alone in Sunny California, where tornadoes are merely a dream...?
Hi Michael-
I used to live not too far from you (was born and raised in Turlock) and definitely know what you mean. The 4-6 months out of the year with hardly any rain or wind could be tough to take - although it some ways the long break was nice in that I could make plans without having to worry about missing an important weather event.

BTW tornadoes and supercells actually aren't too uncommon in CA - and you don't live too far from one of the most active areas for severe weather in the state. The east side of the Central Valley and adjacent foothills up to about the 1000 foot elevation get several episodes of severe weather each year. Here's a great site from SFSU with some info and pics on CA storms.....
Interesting stuff. I remember hearing of a funnel cloud up north, but didn't know it was actually a tornado. I live at about 2800 feet. There is an occational thunder roll up here, maybe once a year. I am now inspired to research the occurence of storms aruond here. Who knows, maybe my town could get lucky... Let's just hope I won't turn out like the meteorologists here and chase every raincloud...
I know exactly how you feel....CA is dullsville
I considered a second house up near bishop but the weather wasnt happening for me - so I just closed escrow on a place east of brianhead utah --- Im not exactly sure if it is violent enough but I think so - I didnt want to have to drive more than a day to get to my second house or I obviously would have gone further to denver or more
here is what I know so far:
1. low temps minus 20 degrees in winter
2. Microbursts and thunderheads in spring and summer
3. Lightning has hit the house several times
4. Derechos
5. snows on 4th of July usually
6. Major mountain pass nearby and Bryce canyon (draws clouds down magnetically from the iron rich soil
7, Denver a day away
what ya think?
Brian Head is certainly a great place to live if you like snow and lots of it....since they started keeping records there in 1991 they have averaged 357 inches of snow per year. As for the snow on the 4th of July....they haven't had any measureable snowfall in July the 14 years they've kept records, but some years there can still be quite a bit of snow on the ground that late in the year....the snow depth on 7/4/1995 was 17 inches!!!! Here's some more climate info for Brian Head.....
Hey Jeff thanks for the chart
The 4 hour drive from vegas to this location in Utah nets a change of about 60 to 70 degrees and more - so basically you are in shorts and a tank top and by the time you get there the coat and gloves go on
The town I'm in is called Panguish about 30 miles east of brianhead - rumor has it that eskimos moved there years ago and went back to Alaska to escape the record low temps (rumor has it over 20 below zero is expected every winter at times) they were at 10 below last week and that was november!
Panguitch can definitely get cold - their all-time low temperature is -39F. Even during the summer months temperatures frequently drop into the +30s, and usually come in among the coldest places in the nation along with Truckee CA and Gunnison CO.

Being in a river valley on the lee side of a mountain the climate of Panguitch is very different from Brian Head....much less snowfall and greater extremes in these stats from Panguitch to the ones I linked to earlier from Brian Head....
do you think this enviornment could create severe weather? - the local people report thunderstorms and microbursts - and I have seen fields of Joshua trees completed uprooted in unihabited flat areas as if perhaps F0 F1 activity - and is there any areas you know of that might be east of there within chase reach 2 to 3 hrs (re south eastern utah/south western colorado)
Wind damage from microbursts would definitely be your greatest threat for severe weather in southern Utah....since 1950 there have been far more reports of wind damage in Utah than there have been of large hail and tornadoes. Overall your chances of seeing any type of severe weather in Utah are slim. Southeastern Utah and extreme southwestern Colorado would definitely be an interesting place to view storms from since there aren't many trees there and the landscape is just spectacular....although being that you're surrounded by mountains you'll have enough storms nearby between July and early September that you might not need to do much travel.

I agree with you that the weather in CA, especially in the summer, can be pretty dull! Sometimes days and days go by where it would be nice to at least have some cirrus clouds for a nice sunset. I lived in the Midwest for over 20 years before moving to the Bay Area, and I definitely miss the thunderstorms and variety in weather. One thing I do not miss is the persistent overcast and dampness associated with midwestern winters. And if I want to see snow, it's only a 4 hour drive to the Sierras.

Like some of the previous posts said, there is severe weather to be found in California! It's just harder to come by. I remember a few months ago being angry that I couldn't take time off from work to go chase the tornadic cell down in Tulare county. There's a thread floating around somewhere on Stormtrack that had a link to some photos of that storm.

Another bonus of living in CA is that when interesting weather does occur, there's usually spectacular scenery to accompany it. It can make for some
great photos! Back on 9/19/04 I went out to the western Central Valley to "chase" a few non-severe cells near Patterson. Even though they were non-severe, the pics came out great and I was even able to get some time lapse video of a rotating low-topped Cb. Check out

That said, I still plan to return to the plains each year to chase for a few weeks!
Here in CT

I too feel like I am in an area void of any interesting weather...except for the occasional snow storm. I live in Southeastern Connecticut and when we do get a "severe" thunderstorm here it is hardly anything to get excited about. They "claimed" that my area had 2 tornadoes this past summer but if there were any no one heard about it and we never found any!
I miss Florida and REAL thunderstorms! Even upstate NY sees WAY more action than here! I will be planning some trips this spring and summer out of state!!

By the way....anyone know what it is about Worcester Mass that seems to attract tornado producing storms? Not that they get many but they get more than other parts of the state and surrounding regions. :D
Until this semester, when I enrolled at OU, I had lived in Fairfield County for the past 10 or so years. This summer, I can't remember the date, but I believe it was some time in May. There was an intense right-moving supercell that moved out of Hartford County, and into Middlesex, tornado warning and all. No ground truth tornado observations have occurred in CT since 2002, but this year has definitely been the LARGE hail year with many reports of golfball sized during the severe storm 'season.'


EDIT: It was May 23, 2004
in the Sierra Nevadas just outside of Yosemite National Park

I was born & raised in California and spent a lot of time running around Yosemite & hiking up those cliffs like Half Dome and the top of Yosemite Falls. Aside from tornadoes (rare in CA) here is some weather I have found in areas all over northern California that are gems for photographers:

*Lunar rainbow forms at base of Yosemite Falls in the wee hours of the night...but only in May when the Moon is full and the falls are at their fullest from spring runoff. During this time it is worth a hike at 2am to the bridge at the base of the falls to check this out.
*Lightning does occur with orographically-enhanced summer thunderstorms in the High Sierra. You might be able to find a ranger's station or overlook and get some shots. When I was a kid, my dad used to run up to lookout towers above Lake Tahoe, and has some lightning shots from there. The thunder was amazing up there. If I didn't live in Arizona, that is where I would go to find lightning in California, the High Sierra in summer.
*Cloud caps and Kelvin-Helmholtz waves seen clearly at high elevations especially above the treeline are really cool to photograph.
*The Lost Coast of California (draw a line along the shore from Point Arena north of San Fran to Crescent City at the Oregon border) offers spectacular Pacific waves crashing on the high cliffs and jagged headlands. Visit on a stormy day with a winter gale coming through, Nov-Jan, and you will have a wild sea. Far out on the headland in the fishing village of Point Arena there is also a very pictureque lighthouse. Dress very warmly.
*The massive 350-400 ft tall redwood trees of the North Coast and Calaveras Big Trees are awesome with gentle morning light or mist and fog (they are awesome anyway).
*Napa Valley in a spring rain with yellow mustard flowers all over the vineyards or Napa in the fall during the crush when there is dew and frost on ruddy Cabernet leaves, blackish purple grapes and Spanish architecture. I can't say enough about it.
*Death Valley - wind erosion evidence in the rocks, cliffs and dunes. This is massive area, and could take days to explore. Population is extremely sparse. Provisions are required.
*Dawn with snow along highway 395 looking up at Mt. Whitney from the town of Lone Pine. Mt. Whitney is the tallest peak in the lower 48, at 14+
*Upslope fog rolling in past the Golden Gate bridge and into cliffside towns like Sausalito and Tiburon
*Wildfires in the Sierra
*Huge Valley oaks studding rolling hills with mist and fog at the foothill levels. In some areas the oaks have Spanish moss.
*Alpine snow and ice scenes from Highway 80 near Donner Summit, Blue Canyon, Truckee and Tahoe can be strange and beautiful.
*Everything is photogenic in Yosemite

Rare is the tornado in California (but it can occur in the Central Valley) but the State has a bounty to offer photographers interested in various weather aspects of the State. Nearly every environment can be found. You can always make a Plains run in May :)

Great cells roaming through... I am happy now. I actually got some snow! It didn't last, though... Rain for several days and going. Most of the state is seeing record rainfall...