Weather Watch

Santa’s workshop benefits from geothermal activity

You may have heard the sound of rustling bells and hoofbeats on your roof last night as Kris Kringle made his rounds from his home in the far north in a land of perpetual 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 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 dry, almost never receiving any precipitation. All in all, the weather is a bit too dry and cold for Saint Nicholas.

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. Due to the shifting ice flows at the pole, rumor has it that Santa actually lives a little further south on Ellesmere Island in the Quttinirpaaq National Park, Canada. The park is the most northerly extent 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 secret valley that is heated by geothermal activity. 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 Peary caribou. One subspecies that lives only in this secret valley is that of Rudolph reindeer. This small subspecies is absolutely 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 Santa’s 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. It has classified orders to stand down America’s air defenses at this time.

I sincerely wish everyone a Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

This week’s forecast

A stubbornly persistent and strong high-pressure ridge over California has produced one of the driest and coolest Decembers on record.

A few locations in the North County have seen low temperatures reach the mid-teens. Saturday morning’s barometer reading of 30.50 in/Hg is a good indication of just how strong the ridge of high pressure has been.

This condition has also produced low relative-humidity levels, and with this dry air mass in place, temperatures should warm rapidly through this morning, reaching the high 60s to the low 70s across San Luis Obispo County today. A few variable high-level cirrus clouds made of ice crystals will continue to stream over the Central Coast through Monday.

Another round of cold temperatures will occur tonight into Monday morning with low temperatures a few degrees warmer than last night. Increasing northwesterly (onshore) winds will produce slightly cooler high temperatures on Monday afternoon.

Beginning Tuesday, the high-pressure ridge that has dominated our weather will shift to a weak trough, allowing for the storm track to gradually migrate southward. This condition will allow a series of low-pressure systems to cross Northern California. But more importantly, the increasing northwesterly (onshore) winds and the return of coastal low clouds Tuesday night into Wednesday will produce much warmer overnight temperatures.

The trailing edge of a few of these cold fronts may pass over the Central Coast on Wednesday and Friday, producing high-level clouds. Rain may reach as far south as a Monterey-Yosemite line by Wednesday.

In the extended time frame, the slightly wet pattern should continue for Northern California, while Central and Southern California appear likely to remain dry.

This week’s surf report

This morning’s 5- to 7-foot northwesterly (300-degree deep-water) swell (with a 13- to 15-second period) will be overlapped by another long-period northwesterly (300-degree deep-water) tonight into Monday morning. These two swell trains will combined to produce a 6- to 8-foot northwesterly (300-degree deep-water) swell (with an 11- to 17-second period) on Monday morning. This swell will peak on Monday afternoon through Tuesday morning at 7 to 9 feet (with a 12- to 14-second period).

Increasing northwesterly winds will produce a 6-to 8-foot northwesterly (310-degree deep-water) sea and swell (with a 5- to 13-second period) on Tuesday afternoon through Thursday.

A 5- to 7-foot northwesterly (300-degree deep-water) swell (with an 8- to 12-second period) is forecast along our coastline Friday.

Preliminary extended surf analysis:

The longer-range charts and models are indicating a series of storms moving through the northern Pacific toward the Aleutian Islands. These storms will produce a series of medium-height, medium-to-long-period swell trains through the first part of January 2012.

Seawater temperatures: Seawater temperatures will range from 54 to 56 degrees through Friday.

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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