Trinidad Head Baseline Observatory Battered by Winter Storm

January 26, 2006

The NOAA Trinidad Head Baseline Atmospheric Observatory located on the Northern California coastline (41.05 N, 124.15 W), and one of the five NOAA Global Baseline Atmospheric Observatories, was shut down for 3 days due to regional power outages produced by a severe winter storm that battered the California and Oregon coasts earlier this month. Wind speeds of 97 mph (42 m s-1) produced waves of 25 ft (8 m) and uprooted three large 150 year old Monterey Cypress trees located near the observatory, one of which moderately damaged the roof of the ozonesonde balloon launch facility. Nevertheless, the observatory was up and running within hours of power restoration.


The Trinidad Head Observatory, established in the spring of 2002, provides continuous measurements of atmospheric pollutants and climate forcing agents entering the West Coast of the U.S. from Asia. In addition to its long term monitoring mission, the facility has hosted or supported a number of large intensive studies including the NOAA 2002 Intercontinental Transport and Chemical Transformation (ITCT) campaign, the 2004 Intex Ozone Network Study (IONS) and the 2005 Altair Integrated System Flight Demonstration Project. In addition to the normal complement of baseline observatory instruments, the observatory presently supports, or has supported in the past, instruments NOAA/CSD, NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), UC-Berkeley, UC-Davis, UC-San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (AGAGE), operated since 1995 by SIO, is also located on Trinidad Head.


The Trinidad Head Observatory suffered only minimal damage in a severe 50-year storm, and was back in operation within hours of the resumption of power. This same storm produced significant loss of standing timber including up to 70% loss of trees just north of the observatory, presumably due to a reported funnel cloud. Funnel clouds are a very unusual phenomenon for the West Coast. The extreme wind event was the result of intense pressure gradients associated with the formation of a bent back occluded front, itself a relatively rare event on the California Coast.

To see views of the observatory, tree damage, and surfers riding huge waves coming ashore near Half Moon Bay, following the storm go to the link below and view the images in the photo gallery at the bottom of the page.

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