Sunday, January 20, 2013

Summer and Winter at the Same Time

What is going right now is quite amazing...summer and winter are within a half-mile of each other in much of the Pacific Northwest.   Move a half mile and you can go from a maximum temperature in the mid-30s to the 60s or even near 70 (that is summer-like around here).  The only detail is that this half-mile is in the vertical.

I have been looking at weather around here for a while, but this has to be one of the most extreme inversion cases I have ever seen.   Take a look at the maximum temperatures yesterday in western Washington.  High temperatures in the mid to lower 30s (even some 20s!) in the western lowlands, but 50s and 60s at observation locations around 2000-3000 ft.  TWO stations in the hills southeast of Olympia got to 73 F.   Yes, the 70s.  Lots of locations in the Olympics were in the 60s.


Looking regionally, you can see this craziness extended into northern Oregon.  Many 70s there. (not sure I believe the 85F reading!).  Cold air is entrenched in the bowl of eastern Washington and warm temperatures (40s-50s) are found along the coast.


These startling contrast are associated with one of the strongest low-level inversions I can remember.  Here are the observed temperatures above Seattle this morning.  Above a cool layer near freezing that is roughly 200 m (600 ft) thick, there is a huge, sharp inversion, with a temperature change of 14C (TWENTY FIVE DEGREES F) in 400 meters (1300 ft).  You read that right. Hard to believe.

Or you can look at the temperatures from aircraft coming in and out of Seattle-Tacoma Airport at 7:00 AM this morning.  Near 60F at 7AM between 2200 and 2800 ft.  Instead of going to Hawaii, rent a helicopter.

Yesterday, desperate for sun, I took my family and dog up to Cougar Mt. Park (around 1200ft).  It was wonderful, with sun and warmer temperatures.  Driving down the hill I spotted a high neighborhood (the Pinnacles) and parked my car above a slope there.  The view, shown below, says it all:



I didn't want to leave and return to the murk waiting a few hundred feet below.


17 comments:

Kenna Wickman said...

Currently 55 at Hurricane Ridge. Click on http://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/hurricane-ridge-current-conditions.htm and click on the webcam link

Mike said...

Was that Seattle sticking out of the fog, due more to its heat-island effect than its altitude?

chrismealy said...

Where do you get that temperature map?

David B. said...

Hiked up Squak Mountain with a friend today. Freezing and beautiful rime ice formations at the trailhead (700 feet), very dramatic lighting near the top of the fog bank just before breaking into clear conditions, warm and sunny on top (2000 feet, must have been in the low 60s, ate lunch in the sun in a short-sleeve shirt with NO JACKET.

Then back into the cold as we descended, but with a surprise: the fog was much lower on the mountain, water from melting rime was raining down from the trees, and the fog itself was in tatters and shreds; it was sunny out when we got back to the city.

I've done that hike many times, and never with as much variety in conditions as today.

bluearth said...

Fascinating and crazy. But what about glitter? Earlier this week, after a frosty night in northeast Kirkland, the sun was out mid-morning, and a very light breeze started to move through the Doug firs. The air was filled with sparkling glitter - either it was bits of frost dislodging from the fir needles or the freezing fog itself. It was gorgeous and I've never seen anything like it.

MarkM said...

eI'm in the Methow where it's sunny. But apparently the inversion is wreaking havoc with our over-the-airwaves HDTV reception. Cliff, can you explain that phenomenon?

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for your blogs! I've been following the inversion with interest, and today I took my family out to find some blue sky. I ended up with a Sunday photo that was almost identical to your one!
http://www.langeni.net/hilton-s-blog/abovetheclouds

JewelyaZ said...

When can we call it quits with this damn inversion? I am so sick of it... ready for weeks of rain, even!

Pond Cat said...

Cliff, your blog lifts me out of the fog.

Mike said...

How will this affect snowpack? Are we seeing a high degree of melting?

T said...

We were driving over the pass from Leavenworth to Seattle last night. At the pass we looked at the outside air temperature from the car's display and it said 39 degrees. We were both shocked! It had been in the 20's in Leavenworth all weekend. Then we noticed after we dropped a couple thousand feet in elevation, the temperature dropped to 30. So odd!

Roger A Rosenblatt said...

Left murky Montlake (100 feet altitude) yesterday morning. Around Issaquah my altimeter started to plummet, bottoming out at MINUS 720 feet, clear skies, and 15 degree centigrade rise in temp. Quite a wall of high pressure!

Kenna Wickman said...

Hurricane Ridge yesterday was glorious. And packed. I waited 1/2 hour in line at the toll booth before it was my turn to be let through. I spent some time hiking on the packed snow.

There wasn't much of any melting of the snow, as far as I could determine. There were places where snow had avalanched, including one minor spill over the highway that I had to drive around.

I'm wish I headed to the coast today. According to the satellite photos it is sunny from the northern tip of Vancouver Island all the way to the southern tip of Baja.

One more day of this murk and then we are into the usual wet kind of murk. But at least we see the sun occasionally.

Catherine said...

Cliff, I have a question about something I saw walking in the fog in Seattle this morning. I noticed that it was "raining" under all the tall evergreens in our neighborhood. We have some very old, very tall trees, and there was a combination of water and ice steadily falling out of the trees as if it was some combination of rain/hail/ice shower occurring. I am sure this has something to do with water from the fog condensing on all of the small needles of the tree, but I've just never seen anything like the quantity of water falling from these trees. Can you explain?

Patrick said...

List Antiaircraft Peak in Cougar Mountain among the glorious places today. Probably about 60 F, warm enough for short sleeves as long as we were in the sun, with great views of Mt. Baker and the Cascades and the sea of fog down below.

Ron said...

Be careful. Some of these mountain observations are RAWS, designed for fire weather use. As such, the temperature sensor isn't shielded underneath. So on sunny days with snow on the ground, reflected sunshine will hit the temperature sensor giving a false reading. Some of the +60 readings on your map in the Olympics are RAWS stations.

Ferdi said...

I think for the third year in a row now we have had the sort ridging that is more typical of February. Unfortunately, when it happens in January the sun isn't strong enough to clear the lowland fog and break the temperature inversion.