Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Meteorologically Religous Experience

I just experienced one of the finest weather experiences of my life. I knew a very major push was coming (see my previous post) and headed to the kite hill of Magnuson Park with my wife to experience it. We got to the top of the hill about 8:30 PM, with an extraordinary sunset...the sky aflame in orange and red. I looked to the south wherethe visibility was clearly less...a good sign of an approaching push (see my book for a discussion of this). It was warm up there, with little wind.

And then IT hit. The winds started gusting and a veritable dust storm surrounded us. Some of the dust was from dirt paths, but much of it was pollen and cottenwood debris that had fallen during the past weeks.

The winds increased progressively until there were 25-35 mph gusts. I could hear branches snapping in the nearby woods and my dog became agitated. Looking towards Lake Washington I could see white caps over much of its surface, while far to the north near Kenmore the lake seemed placid. Clouds were moving in aloft with an occasional drop or two. Temperatures had dropped at least 10F in a few minutes. Heading home around 9:15 PM we passed a fire engine approach the park with sirens and lights: someone was probably in trouble.

Arriving home we found a big tree branch downed in our backyard and our plastic patio chairs overturned. My wind chimes are ringing as I write this.
For a meteorologist it doesn't get much better than this!

On the weather radar loop you can see the leading edge of the marine push as a thin line of echo moving NE.

And by the way, did I say that today is my birthday. What a present!

44 comments:

beth said...

Happy, Happy Birthday Cliff!
from "the illustrator"

litlnemo said...

Happy birthday, Cliff! We saw a dim reddish rainbow here on Beacon Hill at sunset. It was indeed an amazing bit of weather.

Ella said...

Happy birthday!

We watched the push come in from the backyard. The neighborhood trees were whipping around like mad. It was glorious.

longwire said...

Birthday? Take the day off Cliff; today, of all days, even us lay folks can "tell which way the wind blows" -

Scott K said...

It JUST started here in Lake Stevens. Gusty winds out of nowhere, feels reaaaally good though as it's cooling down the house.

My girlfriend sent me a txt from tukwila about an hour ago asking if it was windy here, because apparently it's windy down there. I knew it was coming!

Exciting! Time to walk the dogs, any excuse to get outside. :)

dale said...

I completely agree with the "religious" characterization of the evening's dramatic weather. I rushed out and took it in from Fremont Peak Park. It was amazing to be reminded of such huge and powerful forces.

Cheri said...

It's an extraordinary privilege to have such instantaneous & expert interpretation of weather events - thank you for taking the time, even on your birthday!

SteveC said...

Cliff - thanks for the nearly real-time guide to the fun weather we had tonight.

We (my spouse and our kids) watched it with our own eyes, and through your words, for which we're all grateful.

Thank you, and Happy Birthday!!

mainstreeter said...

I thought the 1080hz warning tone was seldom used by the NWS anymore but today a friend of mine recorded audio from KXL in Portland which had the 3 digital data alarms followed by the 1080hz warning tone. Maybe the situation warranted both.

ed lorah said...

It feels great out here after such a hot, dead-air day.
Happy Birthday! I just posted a link to your website to all my Facebook friends who were wondering about reports of an impending thunderstorm.

ed lorah said...

t feels great out here after such a hot, dead-air day.
Happy Birthday! I just posted a link to your website to all my Facebook friends who were wondering about reports of an impending thunderstorm.

Jessica said...

Awwhh Cliff - Happy Bday! So this weather was all your doing, wasn't it?

I have to agree that it did have that "tornado drill" sense about it - certainly reminded me of Arkansas elementary days.

D said...

Love the marine push, my work is done for the day.

natchrl8r said...

Happy Birthday, Cliff!

All is still quiet in Bellingham, warm, clear skies, moonlight. No sign of clouds yet from my southfacing vantage. Was hoping for a thunder boomer? I'll look for signs of the push in the morning. *)

natchrl8r said...

I spoke too soon. The push arrived while I was typing! I'll nod off to the sounds of wind chimes. Enjoy the "normal" weather all!

JewelyaZ said...

Happy birthday, Cliff! Glad the skies obliged with some "fireworks".

It was amazing here in Bellevue. Highest gust our instruments recorded was 32.1 mph.

Now I just wish it would RAIN. All my seedlings need it... I keep watering them, but I know I'm not as nice to them as a natural shower would be. :-)

veo_ said...

Hey Cliff, reading your blog I knew we were in for some fun tonight. The scale of the shift was amazing!

My apartment has a 180 degree view of lake union with clear views north, south and west over the Olympics. Watching the weather from here is one the major reasons I continue to pay such high rent for the place.

Anyway, Much like you, we were enjoying the gorgeous sunset over the mountains to the west while watching the dark clouds push in between the buildings downtown in the south. The sun finally set and as if on cue, the winds hit full force. Several sail boats out on Lake Union were taken by surprise and their full-sailed masts bowed dangerously close to the water line. Trees around the neighborhood were violently thrashing and the air suddenly had a very heady pine scent. It felt wonderful to be alive!

Thanks for being our guide on this wild and wacky weather adventure!

camelama said...

Happy Birthday, Cliff!

The winds kicked up out of nowhere here in Ballard, and as I looked up and saw the crows being blown out of the trees (one poor fella was upside down and flailing - quite a difference for our acrobatic friends), I could feel the yard cooling down around me. What a joy! And now the moon is out and bright and the trees are still dancing in the wind.

Elizabeth said...

It was incredible!

K said...

A true weather-guru...
Happy Birthday!

Picnicking in Dreamland said...

Happy Birthday!

We also witnessed the low, reddish rainbow and had several big raindrops.

The front of the push and its drama reminded me of growing up in the Southeast before a big thunderstorm would hit. Not quite as dramatic, but a similar thrill and a welcome change.

Kevin Purcell said...

Amazing. Happy birthday, CLiff.

I noticed the leading edge in the radar too (just north of Olympia at 8pm then sweeping north past Seattle like a tongue. You might post an snapshot out of the archive.

The leading edge was marked by precipitation that evaporated before it hit ground level (virga?) or was this more direct detection of change in refractive index of the marine air at the boundary? I'd love to hear more about why this showed up so well.

It might be worth taking a snapshot the 24 rooftop obs at UW. You can clearly see the change.

http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~neal/uwp/index24.cgi

10C change (18F) in under one hour. WInds change direction and increase dramatically. RH comes up. Surface pressure comes up.

What an amazing push! Just like someone turned the air conditioner on! Except for the RH.

I take it you'll be talking about this on KUOW later this morning!

Lance said...

I experienced the same thing except I was in Bellevue. I was washing my car and within a matter of seconds my car was covered with debris from the winds (right after I washed it, sorta frustrating). The sunset was one of the best I'd seen this year, the sun was bright red.

P.S. Happy Birthday

natchrl8r said...

Hmphhh. You Seattleites get all the weather! The push never really did kick up in Bellingham. Just a little breezy last night. A little more humidity and as warm as its been every morning now, a bit breezy and I expect the temps won't get much higher. Still awesome summer weather!

Paul said...

Happy Birthday.

I also noticed the immediate change and was pleasantly thrilled to experience it. I was also thinking of you and wondering if you would write about it! Thanks.

Fluffyblue said...

Happy b-day Cliff, sounds like an exciting night.

I haven't noticed any changes yet up by the Canadian border. In fact it's quite warm again already this morning. The wind hasn't made it here at all.

I hope there's something in store for us later.

Brad said...

Hey Cliff. I was sailing a Hobie Cat out of Sail Sandpoint in Magnuson Park last night when the blast hit. I was about 100 ft from shore when the wind hit, capsized the sailboat (3 times before we got it back into shore) and blew me, the boat two motorboats and 4 other guys to the east end of the NOAA station there in the park. Took us about an hour to get the boat back into shore. A friend was also out in a smaller single hull sailboat who also had to be assisted back to shore. I certainly had a religious experience also, but not quite the same as yours! I'm happy to report the lights and sirens weren't on our behalf.

Mike said...

Happy Birthday! You deserve it, so take the day off.

andycottle said...

Hey Cliff.... A BIG HAPPY B-DAY to you! Hope ya had a good evening along with WINDY weather we all had here in Western WA last night.

When those winds came through, I just knew it was from the t-storms over the southern Cascades last night, cause those were pretty high up from what I saw on the way home from Heather Lake off of Mountain loop HYWY.

And Cliff.... you mentioned about you all being at Magnuson Park on 'kite hill'. Did you mean Gasworks area? Cause that is the first thing that came to mind and also a good place to fly a kite there..

Bill Kuhn said...

It was amazing. I had just finished your 'all hell's going to break loose' post and read the weather service's declaration that the heat advisory would be over at 9:00. It was 9:02 and I headed into the front yard, leaning back on the car, watching the trees go wild. The grit in the air was tangible, and I could see the remnants of that stunning sunset to the north.

Happy B-day!

Debra said...

Happy birthday and I couldn't agree more about last night. the sound of the gusts and the smell in the air for us was reminiscent of being in Hawaii. Don't laugh. It was just the perfect pairing of wind, moisture and temp. It was glorious and transporting@!

Bhoutros said...

Happy Birthday, Cliff! :)

I really enjoy reading your blog, and your comments re: science education in the U.S.

I am a transplant from MN, and the past 2 hot days reminded me why I left that hot, humid place. MN winters were bearable, but the summer heat was not. Today is perfect!

Erica said...

I would like to see some pictures too! Thanks for the account. It was pretty amazing.

Glenn said...

Hmmn, no big wind here on Marrowstone Island, SE of Port Townsend. Mackerel Sky at sunset, light breeze from west. Got up at 0230, clear sky, stars, Summer Triangle right overhead. Low overcast at dawn, no wind. Cooler than yesterday, but still warm. Closed the yurt roof for nothing.
Funny coincidence, today (Fri. 5th) is my birthday. Happy birthdays to us.

Glenn

Talia said...

out on Alki beach with friends last night - calm and serene and beautiful. the exact INSTANT the last light from the sun went behind the olympics, we had to turn our backs to the huge sand storm that was barreling down the beach towards us, children screaming, bags, blankets, picnics blowing up into the wind. with our backs to the wind we could see the thing racing the sunset towards the city skyline. it was as if this massive force came in and blew out the sun and extinguished the heatwave. it was incredible.

Gayle said...

That was one heckuva birthday celebration! I dare not ask what you will follow up with next year!

derrickito said...

fire truck was just point83 (www.point83.com) having another bicycle bbq. the SFD loves us.

KJ said...

What a wonderful evening of weather that was! As a recent transplant from the Upper Midwest, I've been sorely missing the wild and dramatic weather conditions I'm used to in early summer (thunderstorms, tornadoes, hail, etc. etc.)

Oh, and happy birthday!

Blake said...

I watched from the deck here in Crown Hill. The most enjoyable part for me was the change in humidity. Looking down over Greenwood valley, the sky became hazy and the light changed dramatically. I only regret my wife was out and didn't experience it with me. When she came back, she said 'honey, the front came through', and thanks to Cliff's blog, I was happy to explain what really happened.

andycottle said...

When the wind came through here in Woodinville yesterday evening, it was pretty hazy down in the valley due to dust/ pollen flying all over. Was kinda interesting see that much haze/dust in the air. But those syre some strong outflow winds coming from those t-storms down south yesterday evening.

Liembo said...

I have a few pictures from Bothell as the front blew through, some really neat clouds:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/liem/

Must read blogs said...

yes the winds were pretty fierce here in chehalis.. my daughters friend called her from pullman and they were having multiple lighting strikes ( with thunder and rain). I really had wished we were living in camas yesterday those storms were so wild ( I watched the news from channel 8 portland on comcast).

natchrl8r said...

Though I was disappointed with the winds in Bellingham they were apparently strong enough to flip a sailboat in Chuckanut Bay and a couple young men out with friends for an evening cruise on Thursday are missing. I could've told them what was coming and barely missed an opportunity to do so with one of the passengers. I wish more people would see the value of accurate forecasting and just checking what some of us had known to expect for days. Sad.

Dave Norwood said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drprq1reoNk

just take a look - From your birthday!!!!
Benton City Eastern WA