Weather Watch

Facts about Santa’s home at top of the world

Special to The TribuneDecember 23, 2012 

Listen closely, and you may hear the sound of rustling bells and hoofbeats on your roof Monday night as Kris Kringle (aka Santa Claus) makes his rounds from his home in the far North in a land of ice and snow.

From the North Pole, Santa is able to reach the majority of earth’s population with the shortest travel times. He also chose the North Pole because temperatures are relatively warmer than at the South Pole.

The great white expanse of the South Pole is frightfully cold. On July 21, 1983, the air temperature reached minus 128.6 degrees at Russia’s Vostok Research Station. (When it is summer in the Northern Hemisphere, it is winter south of the equator.) The station lies atop a windswept landscape that sits on a 9,000-foot-thick plateau of ice. The climate at the South Pole is desert bone dry, almost never receiving any precipitation. All in all, the weather is a bit too dry and cold for Saint Nicholas and his tireless elves.

However, in the Northern Hemisphere where the Earth’s axis of rotation meets the Earth’s surface, the North Pole sits on an ocean and temperatures are not quite as cold. Because of the shifting ice floes at the pole, rumor has it that Santa actually lives a little farther south on Ellesmere Island in the Quttinirpaaq National Park, Canada. The park is the northernmost part of Canada. In Inuktitut, Quttinirpaaq means “top of the world.”

The park is dominated by rock, ice and mountains. Along the park’s Arctic Ocean coastline, a fjord leads to a small secret valley surrounded by rugged mountains and lofty cliffs covered by dark green moss and gray lichens. You see, this stealthy valley’s air temperatures are kept pleasantly mild by geothermal springs that flow year-round. In this valley, according to unconfirmed reports, sits Santa’s secret village with Mrs. Claus and the thousands of elves hard at work making toys.

Quttinirpaaq National Park also supports a small population of hearty Peary caribou. One subspecies that lives only in this secret valley is that of Rudolph reindeer. This small subspecies is unequivocally critical in transporting Santa and his sleigh.

During winter, the North Pole is in perpetual darkness with the sun constantly below the horizon. During summer, the midnight sun shines for nearly six months. In other words, during the entire year it feels like there is only one night and one day. This has caused Father Christmas’ circadian cycle to shift from 24 hours to a yearly cycle. People often ask how Santa can possibly visit all the homes in one single night. In Santa’s paradigm, the night is actually six months long, which gives him plenty of time to jump down chimneys, fill the stockings and drink the milk and eat the cookies that were left for him at each child’s home. If you don’t believe me, the North American Aerospace Defense Command tracks him and his reindeer every year heading out of the North Pole to all of our homes.

I sincerely wish everyone a Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

Today’s weather report

Yesterday’s 1,005-millibar low-pressure system and associated cold front produced rain throughout San Luis Obispo County.

Here are the 24-hour rainfall totals as of 4 p.m. Saturday:

  • Arroyo Grande: 0.22 inches
  • Atascadero: 0.43 inches
  • Avila Beach: 0.55 inches
  • Baywood Park: 0.51 inches
  • Cal Poly: 1.79 inches
  • Cambria: 1.06 inches
  • Creston at Windrose Farm: 0.35 inches
  • Diablo Canyon: 1.08 inches
  • Los Osos: 0.63 inches
  • Morro Bay: 0.38 inches
  • Nipomo: 0.67 inches
  • Oceano: 0.20 inches
  • Paso Robles Airport: 0.77 inches
  • Pismo Beach: 0.47 inches
  • Port San Luis Lighthouse: 0.50 inches
  • Santa Margarita Fire Department: 1.18 inches
  • Santa Maria Public Airport: 0.57 inches
  • San Luis Obispo County Airport: 0.84 inches
  • San Simeon: 1.06 inches
  • Shandon: 0.24 inches
  • SLOWeather.com: 1.87 inches
  • Templeton: 0.67 inches
  • Vandenberg AFB: 0.49 inches

A 1,002-millibar low-pressure system will move into Northern California this morning.

The associated cold front will pass San Luis Obispo County between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. with fresh to strong (19- to 31-mph) winds and rain. Rain will turn to scattered showers tonight, ending by Monday morning. Today’s temperatures will be mild, with daytime maximums ranging between the high 50s the low 60s and overnight lows in the 40s.

Total rainfall amounts with this system should range between one-half and one inch of precipitation in the coastal valleys and along the beaches. More than 2 inches of rain is expected in the coastal mountains of San Luis Obispo County. Warmer southerly flow overnight has helped to mix out the cooler air and help raise snow levels to about 6,000 feet. Locations in the Sierra above 6,000 feet are likely to receive an additional 12 to 15 inches of snow.

Monday will bring partly cloudy skies and dry conditions because of a ridge of high pressure that begins to build off the coast. Fair and dry weather will continue through Christmas day and will produce near-perfect conditions for those new bikes and other outside toys.

Another cold front will produce increasing clouds, gentle to moderate (8- to 18-mph) southerly winds and rain showers Wednesday morning. At this time, rainfall totals should stay below a quarter of an inch for most San Luis Obispo County locations.

Gusty north to northwesterly winds will produce mostly clear whether Thursday through Friday with another chance of rain developing next Saturday.

Today’s surf report

Today’s 8- to 10-foot westerly (275-degree deep-water) swell (with a 13- to 15-second period) will decrease to 7 to 9 feet (with a 12- to 14-second period) Monday.

Combined with this westerly swell will be increasing southerly seas. These southerly (180-degree shallow-water) seas will reach 3 to 5 feet (with a 4- to 6-second period) by this afternoon.

A 4- to 6-foot west-northwesterly (285-degree deep-water) swell (with an 8- to 11-second period) is forecast along the coastline Wednesday morning.

A 956-millibar storm with hurricane-force winds is expected to develop off the Kamchatka Peninsula today. A 6- to 8-foot northwesterly (295-degree deep-water) swell (with an 18- to 20-second period) from this storm will arrive along San Luis Obispo County coastline Wednesday afternoon, peaking Thursday at 8 to 10 feet (with a 16- to 18-second period). This swell will gradually decrease Friday, followed by another long period swell next weekend.

Seawater temperatures

Seawater temperatures will range between 56 and 58 degrees through Friday.

• • •

PG&E announced its employees and retirees have raised more than $650,000 to support nonprofits and schools in San Luis Obispo and Northern Santa Barbara Counties through the utility’s annual giving initiative, Campaign for the Community. Tony Earley, chairman, CEO and president of PG&E Corporation, praised employees for their generosity, calling it “an incredible outpouring of support for our customers in this time of economic need.”

John Lindsey is a media relations representative for PG&E. He is also a local weather expert and has lived along the Central Coast for nearly 25 years. To subscribe to his daily weather forecast or ask him a question, email pgeweather@pge.com.

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