How would you like to take a ski lift where you begin with temperatures in the low teens and by the end of your journey minutes later (and after a second lift), you are sweating in the sun with temperatures close to 50F.
Such a trip waited for folks yesterday morning in Snoqualmie Pass, and particularly those ski aficionados enjoying the slopes of Alpental. Take a look at the temperatures at Alpental courtesy of the Northwest Avalanche Center at the top (5470) and bottom (3100 ft) of the runs. For hours that morning, the temperatures at the lower lift was below or near 15F, while temps were near 45F and as high as 50F at the top. You will notice that this difference has increased during the past few days as temperatures aloft have warmed and near surface pass temperatures have cooled. Even during the afternoon today, the differences were huge.
It is really not unusual to get much cooler low-level temperatures in the lower elevations of the pass and warmer temperatures above, and in fact that is connected with the "secret" that makes skiing in Snoqualmie Pass possible. But more on that later.
Today, we had pools of cool area in both eastern and western Washington, the latter is relatively unusual, but cold air in the basin of eastern Washington during the winter is par for the course. In both, the cold air was associated with fog and low clouds. Take a look at the high-resolution MODIS imagery for yesterday, centered on Snoqualmie Pass. Pretty impressive. You can see the clouds on both side, snow over on the mountains, and the big white mass of Mt. Rainier in the lower middle portion of the picture. Look closely and you will spot fingers of fog-laden cold air moving up the valley from Ellensburg to Cle Elum to the eastern slopes of Snoqualmie. Why were low clouds pushing in from the east and not the west? Easy to answer. Today there was a moderate offshore pressure gradient (higher pressure to the east of the Cascades than to the west, and that pushed the low clouds eastward.
So at Easton, well east of the pass, they were in solid clouds:
And a model vertical sounding of wind and temperature at this time at Stampede Pass (about 10 miles east of Snoqualmie) shows the thin, cold easterlies (red is temperature, the x axis is temperature, the y axis is pressure, 850 is around 5500 feet, 700 around 10000 ft):