Sunday, February 15, 2009

When lack of weather is unusual

We are now in the midst of a fairly unusual weather extended midwinter drought extending well over a month (see is this year, blue is climo average). And it is not over yet. But lets be clear...such droughts have occurred before and some worst then this year's. If you are really careful about picking period--mid January to mid-February--this is the driest year on record...but that really is artificial. If you started two week earlier, the heavy precipitation in early January would be included and we would be far from a record (an example of how one can.
The persistent upper level flow with a ridge offshore and a trough over the western U.S. (see figure) is predicted to persist, both by the National Weather Service GFS forecast, a collection (ensemble) of such forecasts, and the forecasts of other forecasting centers. We should have a dry week with partial sun in the lowlands, with little snow accumulation over the mountains. The latest snowpack observations indicates that some locations in the north Cascades and the Okanogan have dropped to roughly two-thirds of normal (figure).
Today, the situation will be very different in the northern and southern portion of the state. The southern half is in clouds associated with a weak ban associated with the low to the south (image). Light rain has made its way up as far north as the Portland metro area, while Seattle and north are sunny. This band should slowly move north as it dissipates . Light showers could move into southern WA...but I don't expect it to move further northward (see forecast for 4 PM this afternoon).
And there is some good news for weather watchers. A key weather observing station that had been offline...Stampede Pass at 4000 ft in the mountains--is back online. It provides the most high quality observations in the many of us missed it.
Finally, let me note my talk on the 25th at Town will be a comprehensive review of what we have learned about forecasting NW weather...a link about the talk is found to the right.


Anonymous said...

3 miles south of Chehalis, 400' elevation, 33F, and snowing big flakes, a smattering of which are Pretty. RobLL

Jessica said...

From your "Saturday" post Cliff -- I hope you do post your comments on the global climate change topic. Including, I hope, discussing your paper on NW climate theory I seem to recall you mentioning on KUOW last year. Something that is in the peer review stage?

To discuss it openly is probably to court ridicule. And I don't want to suggest you offer yourself up for a tar-and-feather session. I guess I just think climate change (whether humans have any actual ability to enact change) is a big enough unknown that it deserves active debate. To not debate in my mind is to give up.

And I'll stick my neck out here and agree w/ Dan; I do like cool, overcast weather. And while I love sunshine, if I really craved constant sun, I'd live in AZ. I thought you were just hypothosizing that to live in the NW means you kind of are ok with liking those mild days. My gawd, when the sun shines so bright, I'm overwhelmed by all the natural beauty (did you see the Olympics at sunset last night?!) and dont get a bit of work done! =)

Anonymous said...

Interesting what a few days can bring. California on their way to a bad situation only to have their storm doors open up. Now Washington is starting to get a little worried. Flip flop as they say.

I wonder if the long ranges had a hint of this?

Anonymous said...

Bright sunshine in Bellingham today!
Am I wrong in thinking this has been an unusually cold winter? With the cold snap during the holidays (technically, pre-winter) and the many, many frosty nights we've experienced before and after the floods it seems quite different from the consistent grey drizzly years.

And Cliff, I was at your talk at Village Books last Sunday but the room was just to crowded to introduce myself. Next time...

Anonymous said...

Good read Cliff. I found that interesting Josh-B. Right when Cali was asking and praying for inclement weather, man did they ever get it. I think we will have one last parting blow with a rough spring with hail, rain, and cold weather. It can't just 'end' like this...we're definately experiencing more extereme events interspersed with long, relatively benign weather periods. Makes for an interesting time to live in the PNW. Good work Cliffster!

Annie said...

I understand you're speaking at Town Hall 2/25 and unfortunately, we can't make it. Bum deal. Any other local lectures coming up we can look forward to attending?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, global warming baby, I like it!
It certainly could be a bit warmer here year-round and I wouldn't complain!

Anonymous said...

With all the treehuggers tearing down the dams, we could have some water shortage/storage issues.
The nice thing about it getting warmer is that since all our hydropower is gone with the dams, our electricity rates are now astronomical...but with warming, we won't need to run our electric heat as much!
Warm up, planet!

Anonymous said...

To the poster wondering about it being a cold winter,

December was definitely cold (not record-breaking though), but January and February so far have seemed normal to me.

I don't know if it's just me, but the lack of wind and rain we've had this winter has actually made it feel more comfortable than normal.

Derek in Renton said...

"Light showers could move into southern WA...but I don't expect it to move further northward"

Hmm, seems like the models missed the boat on that one. I went for a ride on the motorcycle today and got rained on at Boeing Field. It was raining pretty hard last time I looked outside (Renton).

Joan Neslund said...

11 Miles S Stehekin WA 48.2°N 120.75°W (Elev. 3224 ft)Holden Village. Five inches of wet snow. Near 30 all day. Finally snow for the North Cascades.

andycottle said...

For what is shown over us, this would be snow over the lowlands as thicknesses are shown to be in the lower 520`s - upper 510`s with 850mb temps near -10c as a weak mid-upper level low is just barely over the inland coast of WA. Perhaps some nice snow showers with this set up. But again, it`s long range and GFS continues to toy around with the idea of some cold of cold spell around end of this month. We`ll see what happens.

In the short term, still appears we stay mainly dry through about next Sat with Sun and beyond turning cool and unsettled.

Anonymous said...

Cliff, with the benign and much sunnier than normal winter, is there any chance we might see a nicer than normal spring and summer to help balance it out?

Ann said...

Awesome weather site, I just stumbled apon.
Need something like this where I live.
As Jessica was discussing I find it very disturbing that the pole ice sheets are disappearing.

Cliff Mass Weather Blog said... just can't believe the models out that far..particular for snow and cold...don't get people excited! Yesterday the rain band did go a bit further north than forecast...but most of it was over southern WA (which I define as south of Seattle)...cliff

Roger said...

Why is it "disturbing" that the pole ice sheeets are disappearing? Would it also be disturbing if they were growing, as they did from 1940-1970s? Were the dinos upset when it started to chill?
I just don't understand why people get upset over climate cycles that have occured on this planet for millenia. We are part of the ecosystem, and there is nothing we are doing to affect it...and nothing we can do to change it, no moreso than we can change the weather. There are many who have a vested interest ($$$) in making us THINK we can do something!
So sit back in your big SUV and enjoy life (it's WAY too short) I do!
I teach my students to do the same...there is just so much negative in the world with hypocrite liberals trying to make us all live like third-world countries while THEY live large (Al Gore) and don't pay taxes themselves.
I now have 5 kids in my classes who were gonna go into low-paying "enviro" jobs, but now plan to be engineers and business majors...and they will as a result HAVE jobs! It's so gratifying to de-program them from envirowackism!

Anonymous said...


You are exactly what is so wrong about this country. It makes me sick to even think that somebody like you is having influence over our children in an educational environment. You need to wake up. To totally dismiss the idea that humans are affecting climate change is wreckless, and makes you look massively ignorant. I especially enjoyed how you contradicted yourself by tearing down liberals, but in turn saying you are teaching "your kids" to drive big SUVs. You mentioned "envirowackism". The only thing wack here is you.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...


I wouldn't worry about Roger. Sounds like a #^%$ stirrer. For all we know he could be more for about human climate change. He might be using reverse psychology to get the base fired up. If he is the real thing he is part of a new religion. He is as blind as those who deny the holocaust. I may give science a hard time once in a while, but without it anybody could say anything. Good science brings it to a starting point for good discussion and research. Let him keep preaching. It's our job to keep learning about the earth and be open to good scientific research.

This is why Cliff is careful when it comes to Climate Change. If you blame everything on human effects by saying "I am the scientist and you don't know anything-listen to us" approach you are going to alienate and push more people to the extreme. The goal should be to bring this technological wordage and present it in a way that you can understand. Cliff is doing that.