Located at approximately 4000 ft in the central Washington Cascades, Stampede Pass is a rarity: a full National Weather Service station at high altitude that has been around since late 1943. It provides a rare, continuous record of how the higher-altitude climate over our region has changed during the past 65 years. And it has been a key station supporting local weather prediction and has helped guide general aviation flights across the Cascades.
|Stampede Pass Weather Station during the summer (the primary instruments are elevated for obvious reasons0|
|A view of Stampede Pass station during winter around 1990|
|Stampede Pass is located near the red A.|
Until the mid 1990s, Stampede Pass was manned (or womened!), allowing high-quality manual observations. I used to enjoy skiing up there with some students and visiting the warm, cozy residence/station. Then it was automated to save money, fortunately, with the gold-standard ASOS equipment.
So why is it important to save Stampede Pass weather station?
First, because it is the only long-period, high-elevation weather station in our region. If we are interested in knowing how our mountain climate has changed over a long period of time, it is critical to maintain high level stations like Stampede. If you are interested in determining the impacts of greenhouse warming, you really need observation sites like Stampede. An important point is that Stampede Pass has stayed rural without nearby development over the years--few observing stations have this invaluable aspect. I have used data from that station in my own research to understand trends in freezing level and snowpack.
Second, Stampede Pass provides a critical service for aviation. Not only does it have a full array of surface observations, but its instruments include a ceilometer that tell the height of cloud base. Many general aviation aircraft cross the Cascades over Stampede Pass, and those folks (particularly those without instrument rating), need the know where the cloud base is.
Some of you may remember that the NWS terminated the Stampede Pass weather station for a year back in 1989...again to save money. Several private aircraft crashed in the Cascades during that year, and the hue and cry by local meteorologists, the aviation community, TV weathercasters like Jeff Renner, Steve Pool and Harry Wappler, and others led to the reinstatement of the station.
Third, Snoqualmie Pass is already heavily instrumented with data from Washington DOT, ski areas, and NW Avalanche stations. Snoqualmie Pass is not only 1000 ft lower than Stampede, and the air moving through this narrow gap is not representative of the air flow crossing the Cascades.
|Local Terrain around the Stamped Pass Weather Station (green diamond)|
I am not the only local meteorologist worried about the proposed termination. For example, Dr. Nick Bond, Washington State Climatologist, and the office's chief meteorologist (Karen Bumbaco) have recently written a letter (here) that speaks against this move.
Both local meteorologists and residents should provide their feedback to the National Weather Service about this proposal if we are to have any hope in saving this station. It is ironic that our nation could afford to build and man this station in 1943, during a major war, but we can't maintain this critical facility today when our nation is so much wealthier and the need for a permanent resident is gone.
Please express your opinions to the area manager at the Seattle forecast office: Dr. Brad Colman (firstname.lastname@example.org).