The Things I Think About

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.

5 Replies to “The Things I Think About”

  1. I thought the conventional wisdom held that the East Bay had more sunny days then SF. Now you want more rain, too? WhatEVER.
    But, since you brought it up, my friend Todd who used to do the weather page for the Akron Beacon Journal said it’s all a scam. Nobody really knows what’s coming from the sky – especially out there, where the seasons are wind/rain, sun/rain, cold/rain and rain/snow/crap. At least in the Bay Area we know when the rain is pretty much gone for the year.

  2. It’s not just me? I’m relieved to know there are others out there with a fixation on our California rainfall. Mine is due to the phenomenal amount we’ve had here in the San Diego area this year, seeing if we’ll break that record before the season is over. In fact, I have a blog entry about it, all ready to go. I’m saving it for a week when I need to blog but don’t have another topic. After all, one can always talk about the weather, right? 😉

  3. Barbara: The Chronicle includes San Diego in its rainfall list, so (partly because I had an uncle who lived first in La Jolla, then in Mission Valley — long story) I’ve been watching how much rain you’ve gotten this year. It’s one of those once-every-couple-decades kind of years. Five times as much rain as last year, and more than double the normal year.
    And yep, we can always talk about the weather.

  4. Onze: Please remember that I hail (double entendre) from the Middle West — what I was accustomed to thinking of as the Real Middle West before I came out here, distinct from Ohio, which you doubtless also believe to be the Middle West — and was weaned on the very cycle of exhilarating atmospheric circumstances you describe.
    However — it’s not all a scam. Though the numbers we see on the weather page are not an exact science, I maintain my faith that they do represent one slice of Reality. I can bore you in person with my further thoughts about weather observations and statistics.

  5. Info: I agree that Ohio is the East of the Middle West – provincial yet ambitious; just cultured enough to be able to articulate how naive we are.
    And scam or no scam, Todd didn’t know what he was doing when he filled in for the regular weather page editor.

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