Here’s a pointless exercise I spend time on nearly every morning. The Chronicle has a weather page. Not up to the standard of the Chicago Tribune’s page, which is the best I’ve seen; its overseer, Tom Skilling of WGN, has apparently worked with people at the paper to give the page real dimension and depth; they actually make an effort to tell readers something meaningful about the science of weather, they pore over the record books to put the current weather in some sort of meaningful context, and they highlight interesting weather happenings outside the Chicago metro area.
But back to the Chronicle’s weather page. It’s full of numbers, and it features a giant Bay Area map. But it’s really narrow and dull when you get down to it. One feature it has presented presented since I started reading the paper regularly, back in 1976, is a list of a dozen California cities and their current seasonal rainfall. From Crescent City in the north to San Diego in the south, the list reports precipitation in the last 24 hours, how much rain has fallen since the start of the current season (which runs from July 1 through June 30), how much fell in the same period last year, the “normal” seasonal rainfall to date (an average taken over the last 30 years), and the “normal” total for the entire season. Doesn’t that all sound interesting?
I have a daily habit of checking the precipitation numbers if it’s been raining. I have a minor, ongoing fixation about one particular fact: how Oakland’s rainfall stacks up against San Francisco’s. As a resident of the East Bay, it’s a source of pride that humble Oakland has been, on average, a little more rainy than its vainglorious cousin across the Bay Bridge — Oakland’s season normal is 22.94 inches versus San Francisco’s 22.28. But a worrying trend has developed: In several recent years, San Francisco has wound up ahead in the rain race; this year, Oakland is nearly two full inches behind, 25.22 to 27.21.
It makes you wonder whether the fix is in — maybe West Bay meteorologists are doctoring the results to claim Bay Area Rain Capital honors. It makes you wonder what the penalty is for tampering with an Official Government Rain-Measuring Instrument.