It's Not 'Real Rain,' but It's Still Wet


Thursday's scattered drizzles should give way to drier, breezy weather today as an upper-level frontal system that has been "squeezing the marine layer like a sponge" begins to loosen its grip, a forecaster said.

"It's not really raining in the true sense of the word," meteorologist John Sherwin said Thursday afternoon as sprinkles dampened sidewalks here and there throughout the Los Angeles Basin. "Well, maybe it is kind of raining, but it's not like a real storm system."

What sounds like a semantic difference to most who were getting wet is a real difference to people like Sherwin, who works for WeatherData Inc., which provides forecasts to The Times.

Sherwin said most rainfall in Southern California is the product of storm systems that arrive after long trips across the Pacific--"real rain, from real storms," as he put it.

He said the scattered sprinkles that fell Thursday were instead from a low-level layer of cool air that tends to hover along the coast this time of year, soaking up marine moisture.

"There's a high-level frontal system that's been moving southeastward down the coast, and it's been pushing that marine layer inland against the mountains around Los Angeles," he said. "It's been wringing out that sponge."

Thursday's rainfall was light and spotty. Daily totals included 0.08 of an inch in Monrovia and Van Nuys, 0.07 in Westwood, 0.05 in Northridge and 0.03 in Burbank. Pasadena, San Gabriel, Chatsworth and Malibu reported no measurable rain.

By nightfall Thursday, 0.04 of an inch had fallen at the Los Angeles Civic Center, raising the total for the season, which runs from July 1 through June 30, to 31 inches even. That makes this El Nino-enhanced, 1997-98 season the fifth-wettest since record keeping began 120 years ago.

The wettest season was 1883-84, when 38.18 inches of rain fell on Los Angeles after the eruption of the Krakatoa volcano in what is now Indonesia. Precipitation records were set in numerous places throughout the Northern Hemisphere after the eruption hurled a vast cloud of volcanic ash and dust into the air, disrupting worldwide weather patterns.

Sherwin said the current frontal system should move through the Southland by this morning, leaving breezy, partly cloudy weather in its wake.

"It should be partly cloudy and a little warmer on Saturday," he said, "and mostly sunny after noon and quite a bit warmer on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, with high temperatures into the 80s in the valleys. It's almost summer, and that's more like what the weather ought to be at this time of year."

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