It’s a little after midnight on February 6. We just walked home from downtown Berkeley with our friends Piero and Jill. It’s warm out. The entirely unofficial reading at our house is 65.1 degrees–up a fraction of a degree in the last half-hour. A UC-Berkeley weather station downtown records 67.8 right now, and most temperatures in the area right now are in the mid 60s up to 70.
The record high for this date in Berkeley, according to data from the Western Regional Climate Centter, is 71, set in 1987. The record high minimum–the highest low for this date–is 55, set in 1963. Hard to judge where we’ll wind up at dawn, but I’d say we have a good shot of setting a new “highest low” record.
Our average high and low for the 6th of February: 59 and 45.
Update (1:30 p.m.): The overnight low at UC-Berkeley’s downtown weather station was 63.6 degrees, recorded at 8:17 a.m. The official station is on campus near McCone Hall, but even given the fact the downtown location appears to be in a warmer spot than the official one, it’s safe to bet the all-time “highest low” record was broken this morning. And high temperature records for the date are being rewritten everywhere around the bay, too. Here’s a map (from the University of Utah’s MesoWest service) and a record summary (from the National Weather Service in Monterey).
From Cesar Chavez Park on the Berkeley waterfront, an hour or so before last evening’s thunderstorm blew in.
After light showers Friday and Saturday and a steadier drizzling rain much of Sunday, we got heavy rain Monday morning. Just like the weather forecasters and their models predicted. But the summary of coming weather rarely does justice to the reality. In Monday’s case, a pounding early morning rain gave way to showers and then a long, windy break complete with a few flying patches of blue sky. We went out to the Albany Bulb–the old garbage dump of the little suburb just north of us that protrudes into the bay–and gave the dog a run. How was it out there? Blustery, windy enough that a little swell had come up on the Bay and waves were driving all the way up the pocket beach near the Golden Gate Fields racetrack. It started showering again pretty soon after we got back to the car. The next storm arrived, as predicted, early, early this morning, Tuesday. It was heralded by long, deep peals of thunder that at first only The Dog was hearing–he growled every time one sounded. Just before daybreak, the sky opened up for about four hours of thundering, pounding rain. Water shot down the gutters, and all day after and tonight, too, water seems to be flowing everywhere. We had some heavy showers through the day, and tonight the next storm is moving in. It’s supposed to be more intense than today’s. On my last walk with The Dog this morning, I could have sworn I heard a rumbling in the distance, something gathering itself to roll in across the coast; either that, or a string of diesel engines getting ready to roll up the Southern Pacific tracks just west of here.
It was cold enough in the Bay Area Tuesday that we saw the rare phenomenon of visible midday respiration (translation: you could see your breath in broad daylight). After dark, the temperature fell into the 30s again here in Berkeley (into the lower 20s farther from the bay, and below zero up in the Sierra Nevada–but that’s not our neighborhood). Last night, we saw billowing clouds of Midwest-style breath steam just like the one captured above in a dramatic candid photograph.
As related in earlier winters , sometimes Berkeley gets cold enough that frost settles over the town. Well, settle isn’t really the right word, since the frost crystals actually grows in what appears to the layperson to be a magical process of sublimation. The crystals are called spicules, which resemble little spikes or hairs when they form on a cold surface.
Speaking of our weather, one of our local TV weatherfolk, KTVU’s Bill Martin, referred to it as “Chicago cold” last night. And not once but twice he advised viewers that they’d want to take action to make sure plants, pets and “the elderly” were protected from the weather’s effects. The elderly? We brought our own resident grandparent in from the unheated shed in the backyard.
At the risk of unleashing a wavelet of hate mail, here’s a quick take on the Berkeley weather for this week. Meantime, the calendar says it’s November. Please remind me of this when next I snivel about the cold and rain. Of course, in the next 48 hours I’ll hear someone spoil the party by saying global warming is responsible for the continued warm, dry conditions.
From the Martin Luther King Middle School yard this evening. A lovely, long sunset and red dusk. So far, this has been some kind of ideal October: lots of rain for an early end to the fire season, and plenty of warm clear days. It’s just a little cooler and a little darker day to day, though, and we’re just a couple of weeks away from having to push the clocks back. Late twilight: love it while you can!
You know the old rule: Temperature declines as you gain elevation. Here’s an adjunct to that: Except when it doesn’t. It’s fairly common in the San Francisco Bay Area to have cool marine air trapped under a layer of much warmer air. It can be a startling experience to start a walk in the cool damp air in our flatlands neighborhood and cross suddenly–in the matter of just a few feet–into very warm, much drier air.
There’s a beautiful case in point this morning. The lower elevations around the Bay are cocooned in a blanket of cool, moist air. Here in Berkeley, one station has the temperature as 58 degrees Fahrenheit and 91 percent relative humidity. That’s at an elevation of 361 feet–probably up on campus. At the 1,300-foot level in the hills, less than five miles away as the crow flies, it’s 78 F. with 29 percent humidity. Further afield, atop Mount Diablo (about 20 miles to the east; elevation 3,849), it’s 82 F. and 8 percent while at the base of the mountain (in Clayton, 518 feet) it’s 67 F. and 44 percent.
We at Infospigot Information Services are great fans of the evening sky, but we’re not often out and about to report on dawn-time sky conditions. This morning was the exception to that rule. According to the National Weather Service area forecast discussions, there’s some sort of low spinning off the coast and sending in a stream of moisture from the southwest, which takes shape as unusually high, fluffy, and abundant clouds hereabouts (are typical cloud cover in the summer months is a dense bank of low stratus). It’s also a warm, muggy morning, also atypical of our Mediterranean climatic regime.
In a neighborhood in the hills just northeast of campus, Virginia Street climbs and twists to a dead end just above a short avenue called La Vereda Road. At the very top of Virginia, you find yourself in what appear to be a couple of private driveways. It looks like you’ve reached the top. But there’s a path with jury-rigged railings and steps, some nicely carpentered, some hand-cut into a very steep slope. Going up to the top, your way is blocked by the fence and gate above. One sign seems to invite you to go farther; another sign warning of serious federal consequences — the land on the other side belongs to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory — and a heavy lock on the gate stop you in your tracks. Except for the fact someone’s going out of their way to maintain access across private property up to the gate, I’d think the gate is always locked. I’ve been up there maybe half a dozen times, have never found anyone on the street who knows what the deal is and have struck out looking online for any info. Maybe calling the lab is my next step, or maybe someone who reads this will have a key for that lock. (Below: the view from the gate, shot through my sunglass lens.)