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In California, It’s 72 With a Chance of “Weather Whiplash” | Connecting California

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In California, It’s 72 With a Chance of “Weather Whiplash” | Connecting California


Why is it so hard to make seasonal weather predictions in California—and what’s the path to more accurate forecasts? Columnist Joe Mathews asks in the latest Connecting California. Satellite image courtesy of NOAA Photo Library/Flickr (CC BY 2.0 DEED).

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California weather is harder to predict than it looks. Even Harris K. Telemacher came to learn that.

Telemacher was a Los Angeles TV weathercaster with an ocean of knowledge—he had a PhD in arts and humanities and quoted Shakespeare—but no real meteorological training. So, he assumed that California weather was predictable and decided to tape his televised forecasts weeks in advance, always promising sunny and warm days. This worked until an unexpected Pacific storm deluged the Southland during one of his pre-recorded forecasts.

Telemacher was a fictional character invented and inhabited by Steve Martin in the classic satire L.A. Story. But he embodied a real-life cliché that needs retiring.

California weather has never been as predictable as a Steve Martin gag—especially when it comes to the rain and snow of Golden State winters like this one.

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In fact, no state in the lower 48 sees as much variability in its year-to-year precipitation as California. Such variability makes our weather at least as unpredictable as anything else in this volatile state. Last year, California was in the midst of the driest three-year run in recorded history when NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, published a seasonal forecast for a drier-than-average winter. Instead, we experienced one of our wettest winters ever.

Now, another winter of weather surprises has arrived, demonstrating that California desperately needs better seasonal forecasts so we can plan and protect ourselves in this era of climate change.

Seasonal forecasts are not the predictions of tomorrow’s weather that you see delivered on your TV by Telemacher and his present-day imitators. Seasonal forecasts provide a range of possible weather and climate changes for the next season on the calendar, usually about a month or so in advance. (Federal agency forecasts for winter are usually out by Halloween.) Meteorologists will tell you that while it’s impossible to tell you the weather on a particular day months in advance, they should be able to predict, broadly, how wet or dry the next season should be.

But that’s always been hard to do in California. Lately, it’s become even harder because of the state’s “weather whiplash”—the term that the Public Policy Institute of California has used in recent years to describe the seesawing we’ve seen between flood and drought.

Our current inability to predict seasonal wet conditions makes it harder to manage water supplies (we need to store more in wet winters to prepare for drier years), prepare for disasters (including unpredictable floods, like the one that recently inundated San Diego), and do long-term economic planning for agriculture, which supplies food to the entire nation.

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Another winter of weather surprises has arrived, demonstrating that California desperately needs better seasonal forecasts so we can plan and protect ourselves in this era of climate change.

It’s not just winter weather that’s hard to foresee. Predicting scorching heat, as the state’s daily average maximum temperature rises by more than 4 degrees, is difficult. Impactful heat waves, called Heat Health Events, are expected to increase in frequency and duration, especially in the Central Valley and Sierra. Calling those ahead of time could be a matter of life and death.

But improving seasonal forecasts is easier said than done. Even the most advanced meteorologists have struggled with making seasonal forecasts. Indeed, recent studies, now getting attention in California policy circles, suggest that our state and its meteorologists need a better understanding of the peculiarities of the Pacific Ocean to improve their forecasts.

Making expectations about how much rain or snow is likely to fall in California depends on predicting atmospheric patterns over the northern Pacific Ocean. To do so, meteorologists have tended to look at sea surface temperatures in the South Pacific and the phenomena known as El Niño and La Ninã. Warm temperatures, or “El Niño” conditions, were believed to herald rain. Cool “La Niña” conditions were thought to signal a dry winter.

But a recent paper highlighted by PPIC, with authors from UCLA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, found that El Niño conditions don’t explain most of the variability of our weather. To cite one example, tropical sea surface temperatures and conditions were very similar in 2021–22 and 2022–23, but the first winter was dry and the second was one of the wettest in history.

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“It remains elusive how predictable the year-to-year variability of CA winter precipitation is and why it is challenging to achieve skillful seasonal prediction of CA precipitation,” the paper said.

According to its authors, to arrive at more accurate seasonal forecasts, scientists need a better understanding of the ocean’s “circulation anomalies,” which are deviations in averages and expected conditions independent of El Niño. Current climate models, the paper argued, “show nearly no skill in predicting these,” which means that they have “limited predictive skill for California winter precipitation.”

The paper also argued that current climate models can’t predict patterns that stem from tropical convection (i.e. tropical clouds and thunderstorms) or the stratospheric polar vortex. This means that for better seasonal forecasts, meteorologists need a better understanding of conditions and patterns not only in the relatively nearby western Pacific but also in waters as far away as the Indian and Arctic oceans.

How do we achieve this?

One answer is to devote more time and resources to observing oceans, sea ice, and clouds—and their impacts on precipitation. Another answer is to employ better computer capacity and artificial intelligence to build better climate models. This is a planetary problem—if you want better predictions of California precipitation, you need to improve modeling and data for the climate of the whole earth.

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But such improvements won’t happen fast. So, for at least a few more winters, we’re stuck with unreliable seasonal forecasts and unpredictable weather.



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California, Oregon State have sights set on similar goal

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California, Oregon State have sights set on similar goal


Oregon State and California each head into the last four games of the regular season with a chance to reach .500 overall, starting with a game Thursday in Berkeley, Calif.

The Beavers and Golden Bears are each 11-15 overall with Oregon State 3-12 in Pac-12 and California 7-8 in conference play.

The Golden Bears have a chance to finish in the top six in the conference with a winning record in Mark Madsen’s first year as head coach.

California is coming off an 82-80 win at Washington on Saturday.

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Jaylon Tyson scored 21 of his team’s 42 points in the first half while making 8 of 11 shots from the floor.

He finished with 28 points and six assists, including his final one to Jalen Celestine for the winning 3-pointer with five seconds remaining at Washington.

“Jaylon Tyson made the most unbelievable read with the pass and Jalen Celestine made just the most unbelievable shot to win the game,” Madsen said.

Tyson and fellow Texas Tech transfer Fardaws Aimaq are leading California in scoring, with Tyson averaging 20.3 points and Aimaq scoring 14.7 per game.

Tyson is averaging 7.1 rebounds and Aimaq is pulling down 11.2 per game.

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Oregon State is coming off a 60-58 loss to Oregon at home on Saturday.

It was the Beavers’ sixth straight loss to their rivals, including three consecutive two-point losses at home.

Michael Rataj led the Beavers with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the floor. He also had nine rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Oregon State was outrebounded 40-30 and was outscored 44-28 in the paint.

“Our big thing was to have a better year than we did a year ago,” said Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle, whose team was 11-21 last season. “We still have the opportunity in front of us with the games we have to get on a roll, win some games and put a positive spin on it.”

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–Field Level Media

Copyright 2024 STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.





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California’s US Senate candidates agree AI should be regulated — but they differ on why

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California’s US Senate candidates agree AI should be regulated — but they differ on why


Artificial intelligence made its way onto the third and final debate of California’s U.S. Senate race Tuesday evening, where the four leading candidates met ahead of the March 5 primary.

All four candidates — Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff of Burbank, Katie Porter of Irvine and Barbara Lee of Oakland as well as Republican ex-Dodger Steve Garvey — concurred that AI should be regulated, but they differed on the reasons why.

AI, “technology that enables computers and digital devices to learn, read, write, talk, see, create, play, analyze, make recommendations and do other things humans do,” according to tech company IBM, has California voters worried this election cycle. Just over five in 10 said they are concerned about their jobs being replaced by AI, according to a December survey by Politico and Morning Consult.

Schiff, during Tuesday’s debate, focused on how AI should be regulated to protect workers. He pointed to the Hollywood strikes over the summer, when Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the Writers’ Guild of America members walked out over a number of concerns, including a lack of guardrails against AI taking over writers’ work.

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“I was proud to be out there on the picket lines making sure that in these contracts for so many of the workers in the entertainment industry … had protections against AI, potential threat to their jobs,” said Schiff. “We need to also address these changes in the workplace in the light of these new technologies to make sure workers are protected.”

Schiff, when asked in the Register’s Voter Guide questionnaire what he sees as the federal government’s role in creating and enforcing a regulatory framework, said he supports “a high-level agency that is able to act nimbly and put adequate safeguards in place as the technology evolves.”

Lee, who is positioning herself as the more progressive candidate in the race, focused on the nasty side of AI: the potential for the technology to discriminate.

She pointed to studies that have shown how AI can stereotype based on race and gender. Last year, Stable Diffusion, a text-to-image generative AI model created by the startup Stability AI, was found to be amplifying certain stereotypes, like depicting men with lighter skin tones as holding the majority of high-paying jobs, including politicians, lawyers, judges and CEOs, according to Bloomberg. Low-paying jobs, like housekeeper and cashier, however, were depicted as darker-skinned women. A spokesperson for Stability AI told Bloomberg the company is working to develop open-source AI models that are trained to understand different countries and cultures, which they say will “mitigate biases.”

A 2023 study led by the Stanford School of Medicine found that popular chatbots like ChatGPT, GPT-4 and Claude, “appeared to reinforce long-held false beliefs about biological differences between Black and White people,” according to the Associated Press.

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“We have to be careful that (artificial intelligence) is not used to discriminate against people because there are some real issues around racial justice that we have to address with AI,” Lee said from the debate stage. “Now’s the time to do it.”

“These are biases that target Black and Brown people,” she said in her Voter Guide questionnaire. “We must work to eliminate the biases within AI algorithms, and that starts by ensuring the way AI is designed and trained is more fair and equitable.”

But Lee also sees positives with AI, saying artificial intelligence can help with the climate crisis, education and healthcare and that a regulatory environment must be developed right away so that the technology can be used for good.

AI tools are already being used in these sectors, by detecting methane and forest fires, locating critical minerals for green technology used in solar panels and electric vehicles, diagnosing and treating illnesses and fostering immersive learning in schools.

Garvey, meanwhile, wants Congress to work with technological innovators, who are mostly based in California to adopt regulations governing the use of AI.

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“Because once it starts affecting you and I, and once it starts affecting Californians, that’s when we have to have regulation,” he said.

Like Lee, Garvey said AI has the potential to help with challenges, including in the medical field and climate change.

“However, we must adopt reasonable regulations that ensure the disruption caused by AI is not catastrophic to the livelihoods and security of our residents,” he said in his Voter Guide questionnaire.

And Porter, who sought to position herself during the debate as an outsider unbeholden to special interests, pointed to the “powerful interests that are backing AI” as a reason to regulate the technology, referencing a recent ad from crypto-sponsored super PAC, Fairshake.

While the ad, which accuses Porter of taking money from major banks and pharmaceutical and oil companies, does not mention AI, the Irvine congresswoman alleged that the PAC — major donors to which include venture capital firm AH Capital Management, crypto giant Coinbase and tech company Ripple Labs — is part of the “powerful interests that are backing AI.”

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“These are the same handful of ultra-wealthy billionaires who are backing ads that spread false truths about me,” Porter alleged.

In her questionnaire, Porter said: “AI has the potential to be a democratizing force — but it also poses dangerous risks like spreading misinformation online, endangering national security, reinforcing stereotypes and discrimination, automating jobs and more. Washington must take urgent action to protect against these potential risks — not slow walk until it’s too late to take meaningful action.”

While only Garvey, Lee, Porter and Schiff have participated in the three debates held thus far, there are more than 20 other candidates on the primary ballot for the U.S. Senate race, including Republican attorney Eric Early and former local TV journalist Christina Pascucci, a Democrat.

On AI, Early said that while he believes in small government, “the threat of AI run amok is so severe” that the federal government must actively regulate the industry.

Pascucci, too, called for regulation, saying her career as a journalist taught her “the value of truth and the danger of disinformation.” Like Garvey, Pascucci said while AI may cure cancer one day, it poses challenges and risks. Innovators in California’s Silicon Valley should be tapped to push forward the regulation of AI technology, she said.

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Mark Ruzon, a software engineer who resides in Mountain View, said an area of particular concern is the use of AI in weapons.

“We should work with the nations of the world to outlaw weapons that use AI to attack civilians indiscriminately or to assassinate specific individuals,” he said.



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California lawmakers introduce reparations package with formal apology for slavery

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California lawmakers introduce reparations package with formal apology for slavery


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California lawmakers introduced a reparations package to their state house on Wednesday, including 14 bills they claim will help support Black communities across the state following historical mistreatment.

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Members of California’s Legislative Black Caucus said the 14 reparations bills seek a formal apology for slavery and other human rights violations from the governor and legislature, and the return of property taken in race-based cases of eminent domain, among other restitution.

The bills are intended to be just the first legislative actions in an effort that will likely span years.

“While many only associate direct cash payments with reparations, the true meaning of the word, to repair, involves much more,” Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson, chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, said per Reuters.

CALIFORNIA VOTERS ISSUE STRONG REBUKE TO DEM PLAN TO OFFER CASH REPARATIONS: POLL

Members of California’s Legislative Black Caucus introduced the 14 reparations bills on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

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The 14 bills follow an extensive 1,100-page report written in June by the California Reparations Task Force, a group of lawmakers created by a state bill in 2020.

The task force includes Wilson as chair, Assembly members Steven Bradford as vice chair, Isaac Bryan, Dr. Akilah Weber, Mia Bonta, Christopher Holden, Dr. Corey Jackson, Kevin McCarty, Tina McKinnor, Lola Smallwood-Cuevas, Mike Gipson and Reggie Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr.

Their work on the report spanned two years and they ultimately made over 100 recommendations to legislators in the state.

Among the above issues, the other recommendations include compensating people and funding community-based programs to decrease violence in Black communities.

CALIFORNIA REPARATIONS TASK FORCE CALLS FOR ELIMINATING CHILD SUPPORT DEBT FOR BLACK RESIDENTS

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Wednesday’s 14 bills —

  • Expand access to career technical education through a new competitive grant program.
  • Add career-education financial aid.
  • Amend the California Constitution to allow the State to fund programs to help increase the life expectancy of specific groups, improve their educational outcomes and lift them out of poverty.
  • Formally recognize and accept responsibility for all the harms and atrocities committed by any state representative who promoted, facilitated, enforced and permitted the institution of chattel slavery.
  • Prohibit discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles in all competitive sports.
  • Restore property taken during race-based use of eminent domain to its original owners or provide restitution or compensation in such cases.
  • Issue a formal apology for human rights violations and crimes against humanity on African slaves and their descendants.
  • Amend the California Constitution to prohibit involuntary servitude for incarcerated persons.
  • Eliminate the practice of banning books without oversight and review.
  • Fund community-driven solutions to decrease community violence at the family, school and neighborhood levels in African-American communities.
  • Restrict solitary confinement within detention facilities.
  • Make medically supportive food and nutrition interventions a permanent part of Medi-Cal benefits.
  • Address food injustice by requiring advance notice of the closure of a grocery store.
  • Eliminate barriers for people with criminal records to obtain business licenses and to prioritize African American applicants seeking occupational licenses.

The items were initially announced in January. None of the initial 14 bills proposed on Wednesday call for cash reparations, a subject which has garnered criticism from both sides of the proverbial aisle.

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Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer argued the bills would address decades of laws and policies designed to ostracize Black Americans.

California State Capitol

The Black Caucus members said the bills would address decades of laws and policies designed to ostracize Black Americans. (Visions of America/Joe Sohm/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Governor Gavin Newsom, California, deficit, education, public school

California Gov. Newsom signed a state bill forming the California Reparations Task Force into law in 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chi, File)

“These atrocities are found in education, access to homeownership, and to capital for small business startups, all of which contributed to the denial of generational wealth over hundreds of years,” Jones-Sawyer said, Reuters reported.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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