January 15, 2009

Even Lower

Here is a wonderful picture from Stephen Van Dyck that was taken at Poo Poo Point (1820 ft) on Tiger Mt. yesterday afternoon a 4 PM. The same view will be available today. Hiking through a sharp inversion is a real treat. If you don't like hiking, drive up to the top of Cougar Mt. Park and bask in the sun.

The inversion is lower and stronger this morning. The first graphic below is the vertical sounding at Quillayute on the coast based on a balloon-carried instrument package (radiosonde). Temps (red) in C and heights in pressure (850 is about 5000 ft, 700 about 10000 ft) Very strong surface-based inversion. The blue dashed is the dewpoint...air is saturated near the surface but VERY dry aloft.

Next, I have the Seattle temperature aloft...the inversion is very strong, with the base now below 400 m (1300 ft).

The surface temperatures at 6 AM are plotted in the next figure. Big variations...from the mid-30s in the coldest locations to 55F up in the mountains. Want to warm up?...go up Keep in mind..if you are driving in fog and the temps are in the mid to lower 30s, be very careful! Black ice on the roadway is a real possibility.

Finally, air quality has held up until now, but a few locations (e.g., Olympia and South Park) have slipped into moderate...look at the latest air quality map from Puget Sound Clean Air Agency I have include.


  1. Air inversions are good for star gazing too because the city lights are blocked by the fog below.

    I'll bet the stars were pretty last night from atop Cougar and Tiger Mountains.

  2. Anyone know of a good place to get up in the sun on the Kitsap side? Either hiking or driving would be fine.

  3. Any good storms looming in the extended forcast?

  4. If you had a telescope on a hill above the clouds...you might be right...it could reduce the light pollution.

    Joh...find a hill that extends about 1200 ft...and you should be in the sun

    ...no storms for the next week....just nothing...


  5. What confidence level do you put "just nothing" for next week? Several solutions of the GFS had an upper trough into the area by midweek, and even though the GFS now holds on to the ridge longer, and is weaker with that idea, there are still three weak cut off lows cutting under the mean ridge. Look at 12z Thursday off the 12z run--a weak cut off west of Vancouver Island--a 549dm low west of San Francisco, and another low around 33N 143W. After the 500mb heights peak in the 580s Sunday, the fall to the 560s over Western Wa after the middle of next week--that is a pretty big change in and of itself, and if this were September after a dry spell, a chance of rain in the extended forecast would seem very reasonable. Only thinking about this ridge in terms of a persistent block and shrugging off the details and the gradual height falls after Monday could a person justify NOT trending the forecast toward climo. IMHO of course! --Mike at the NWS

  6. Hurricane Ridge and Mt. Walker come to mind as two places to escape the fog. The road up Mt. Walker is closed however. Both are about 1 - 1.5 hr from Kitsap. Some of the hills just south of Discovery Bay are a possibility as well. But from the 1km satellite map, all of Kitsap looks socked in.

    Casey Burns

  7. Mike..the NCEP ensemble indicate the ridge will hold through Monday afternoon....so it seems like there is little threat at least that far. The solutions diverge at that point, but none seem to suggest a pattern that would produce a "good storm."

    Regarding Kitsap...Gold or Green Mountains would be high enough....

  8. My noon run up to Poo Poo Point today revealed about 50 degrees at the top (1,800 ft) on my gimpy REI clip-on thermometer. I broke out into the sunshine at around the 14/1500-foot level. It was glorious. Clear blue sky with a carpet of clouds. Then it was back down into the damp and cold. Down below, at my house, it was in the mid-30s in a gray fug. The transition from cold to warm was not as sharp as I've experienced on some occasions, but delightful nonetheless.

    Maybe Cliff knows who owns the weather recording equipment at Poo Poo Point and whether it can be "read" on the web.


  9. Ah, I'd agree--if you aree looking for 'storms' you'd have to go out to the fantasy portion of the simulations. But the 18z run is trickling in now, and I'm sure once again will be plenty of entertainment in there with a pattern change by the time you get out around day 10.

    Recently, we have been told to start with climo pops in the extended forecast grids, then work them over. It isn't my place to discuss the merit of dropping climo into the grids, but it is certainly true that our skill drops through day 7 and sometimes climo is a good forecast. But maybe not right now with a strong blocking ridge...

  10. Would love to take the little ones up to the sun. Didn't know you could drive up Cougar Mountain, which entrance can you do this at?

  11. Can I continue to bask in the clouds? I don't want to "bask" in the sun. It's way too bright, gives people cancer, and makes it at least feel way too warm/hot.

    Too bad the clouds left us today. With not even so much as a goodbye. ;-(

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  13. Your opinion of whether Cliff is spinning the fog and stratus in a way that agrees with how other people feel about fog and inversions is a little silly. It is a personal blog and I find the professor's comments about the weather often useful and insightful. Please don't spoil it for the rest of us! -MM

  14. Cliff, you're a meteorologist, right?

    You went into the field because you love the weather, right?

    Then why do a lot of your posts (like this one) reflect that you don't like weather? Check it out from today and a few others this week:

    "If you don't like hiking, drive up to the top of Cougar Mt. Park and bask in the sun."

    "Notice the excellent visibility in the dry air."

    "The observations at Paradise (around 5500ft) showed temps in the mid-50s. This will be true for a number of mountain locations (e.g, Mt. Baker, Crystal). So this is a good time for a mid-elevation hike or ski trip in the mountains."

    "Above the inversion it becomes not only warmer, but clear and sunny (check the view from Crystal Mt). During this week the inversion should strengthen and lower, so you can always get out of the murk by moving upward. One of my favorite things to do in this situations is to climb Tiger Mountain. One can bask in the warmth and look down on the clouds below."

    "The problem with fog is that one formed it can become very peristent..."

    "I hate to say it, but this is an ideal situation for us to fog in and stay like that."

    "Our only hope is that there will be enough offshore flow to mix it out a bit during mid afternoons."

    "Sea Tac has a worse fog problem than Boeing Field because Sea Tac is higher (452 ft). During the day the fog often lifts a bit...Boeing can open up enough for landings...but Sea Tac remains in the murk."

    Using negative terms for anything that's weather, and positive terms for the lack of weather doesn't sound like liking weather to me. Most people don't use negative terms to describe something they like.

    So it doesn't sound like you like weather to me. Some of us actually do like it, and like reading this blog because of it, so please let us enjoy it and consider leaving subjective terms out altogether. Thanks.

  15. Doesn't sun count as weather? Doesn't fog count as weather? Snow, wind, and rain are only part of the weather story. Stop complaining and enjoy the blog, please!

  16. Too many people out there appear to be aflicted by "SAD", judging by some of the posts. Go grab a beach blanket and head up to Rainier Paradise tommorrow and catch some rays!It was 69 degrees there this afternoon.

  17. 69???

    That's NOT winter!! How can that be enjoyable at all??

  18. With all due respect anonymous, the sun is not in our atmosphere. Weather by definition is what occurs in the Earth's atmosphere. So when it's sunny, it's in fact the lack of weather that's occurring (or not occurring). Kinda like dark is the absence of light. Sun is the absence of weather.

    I actually kinda agree with one of the other anonymous posters. Though I don't mind a mix of sun and weather, I know several people who really like when there is weather and actually get depressed in the summer (a reverse form of winter SAD?). Cliff, have you ever considered leaving out any subjective terms (or apparently anything that someone can interpret as subjective) to concentrate on the scientific aspects of the weather in the blog? Apparently they offend people, and if the people I know were to read it, maybe it would them too, I don't know. I'm fine with it but maybe it's something to consider.

    Hope things are going well Dr. Mass!
    (From one of your former students)

  19. Cliff,

    You have a good section in the book about our PNW wind power sites but I've wondered this week what happens in and inversion pattern like this?

    Do we need to plan for "water batteries" behind our dams?

  20. Cliff - a novice question, but I heard that the jet stream, flowing high above the ground is always "tumultuous". And that it is when something changes and allows the jet stream to push down/reach the surface that we experience our wild weather conditions. Would that be a simplified true statement?

    I don't mind the descriptive words for "good" or "bad" weather. I enjoy cloudy, rainy wild weather much more than constant, same sunshine. However, being part of an outdoor enthusiast community, even I wish for crisp, bright days on the trail & slopes and like to know where to find them!

    Now if I could just experience that inverted reflective illusion that one of your commentors mentioned happening on Alki. I look for it out there every day.

  21. I can tell you from my experience today in Santa Barbara that bright sun and 80 deg. IS a nice change of weather! I was able to soak up a nice dose of vitamin D and then watch a sweet red sunset over the Pacific.

    I had the full effect of the wind, snow, rain, rain, (did I mention rain?) last month. Two weeks down here under this High will do much to erase the memories of the past month. Weather wimp? Not me. I have been slogging through Puget Sound winters for 58 years.

  22. Leave out subjective. Let's replace professor Mass with a robot (he is sadly human after all). Would that help?

  23. It was defiantly basking time on Tiger Mt today. When I started up the temperature at the gate on the West Tiger 3 Trail was 36 degrees, and the temperature remained locked on 36 until about 100 yards below the first major switchback on the new trail which I think is just over half way up the trail. By the time I was at the switchback the temperature was already at 44 degrees and by the time I hit the Railroad Grade it was a solid 50. It was 66 in the shade at the view point which made it very hard to head back down into the cold fog.

  24. At the NWS we try to keep 'gloomy' or 'dreary' out of our discussions. But then when we get excited about snow or storms, emails come in to the webmaster to complain. Sometimes there is just no pleasing people. But we all have our pet peeves--'alas' shows up in our AFD and I'd rather that was left out--but it isn't up to me what others write. And it isn't up to the lurkers on this thread what Mass writes. As far as I can tell, the professor is fairly dry and scientific--which you would expect. No complaints from me.

  25. I appreciate the commentary on the weather, positively or negatively subjective, as long as it is DESCRIPTIVE. Quibbling over subjective preferences and accusing each other of subjectivity is simply added entertainment to the ironic among us. Weather is a function of the dynamic processes in our atmosphere which include the Sun's warming effects. I love the fog in its time and I love to escape it into rare warm winter sun when I get the chance; just as I like to escape hot sun into a shady forest. I hope the promised fog will consolidate here in the valleys and I am looking forward to popping my head into the sun with the clouds swirling at my feet! So, Cliff, can I reasonably expect this experience on Chuckanut Mtn. near Bellingham on Saturday? (About 1200 ft. elev.)

  26. I love the photo on this this post--we've been talking about the inversion to our son, who is keenly interested in weather. This picture provided a great example (and a good reason to head up a mountain this weekend!).

    From blogging about Seattle schools for the past year and a half, I know firsthand how painful it can be to have the anons critiquing your every word, or worse yet, telling you how to write.

    Face it -- you got a book that's flying off the shelves; they don't. That should tell you something about what people want to read.


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