April 07, 2009

The First Push of the Year

One of the key warm season weather features of the Northwest is the onshore or marine "push"---one of my personal favorites. These events occur following a period of above-average temperatures associated with high pressure inland and offshore flow. The high pressure subsequently moves inland and a weather disturbance approaches from the west, causing an influx of cool, often cloudy, air from off the Pacific.

You know what I am talking about...following a warm day, the winds strengthen and turn to the southwest. Leaves russle and wind chimes ring, and the air become perceptibly cooler. You got to love this. It is the natural air conditioning of western Washington, BC, and Oregon.

Well, a weak version is happening right now. We have had high pressure west of us, providing sunny skies, and warm, offshore flow..with the warming aided by descent down the western slopes of the Cascades (image). The offshore flow helps causing warming and pressure falls (warm air is less dense, thus lower pressure) and the establishment of a "thermal" trough over us (image). Then as the high pressure west of us weakens and a Pacific disturbance approaches, the low "jumps" into eastern Washington and cool air surges inland (image). You can see the cooling...yellows and reds (warm) replaced by greens (cooler).

I have a whole section on this feature in the book if you would like to learn more. One way to see the push happening is to look at the difference in pressure between the coast and the western interior...I like to check out the Hoquiam minus Seattle pressure difference (HQM-SEA). When that gets to around 3-4 mb, you know a major push is underway. You can follow the changing pressure gradients at http://www.atmos.washington.edu/marka/pd.cgi

Onshore pushes happen around a dozen times over a typical summer and usually are very well forecast. This is the first of hopefully many.

By the way, I will be giving a public talk on microclimates and horticulture at the Center for Urban Horticulture next week (April 16)....you can see the details to the right if you are interested...this is a luncheon sponsored by Dunn Gardens and the Seattle Horticultural Associaton.

PS: The governor should be commended for advocating a tuition increase large enough to preserve the core strengths of the state universities. To turn away students or throw away years of building of academic strength would be foolish for both the students and the state.


  1. good information, thanks for sharing.

  2. I love the onshore push...especially in the summer, there's nothing like that "seabreeze" that comes ashore and makes it feel "cool" after a warm afternoon.

    Good stuff.

  3. You mention you have a whole section in your book about the "push" but it doesn't show up in the index. Is it the section on PNW basics? I sure would appreciate knowing which section you are referring to.

  4. Hello, Cliff, really enjoy your weather blog and wish it were daily. However, since you found it acceptable to promote your own selfish interests, I think I'll do the same. First, my wife is an educator with three years left to retirement and I was one until I couldn't stomach the system any more. Besides being a property owner, I've three, count them, three daughters attending college right now. Two in graduate school and one undergraduate. I find Gregoire, whom I voted for, just another coward who refuses to reform the way education is financed but rather extending into the future the mess it has always been. Granted, the choices are damned hard and in this time of economic doldrums, daunting. But to make opportunities of higher education more difficult for both lower and middle class families or to add to the burden of retired land owners, many who are already struggling to pay their taxes, is TOTALLY unacceptable. I'm afraid I find your argument of 'turning away students' a bit questionable. I'm sorry, but I suspect your more concerned with losing TA's just as public teachers want nothing to do with the dreaded 'voucher' word. Besides, political suicide is not admirable and should never be commended. Finally, low cost student loans? Pools gone dry. No, keeping costs down I'm afraid is the answer until you can convince enough people education is the most important service any of us can do for a future America because many of us are DRAINED already.

  5. George...my concerns are twofold: the quality of instruction and accessibility to higher education of those who could gain from it. I am a little taken aback from your accusations of being selfish. Can't we have a civil dialog about this? I am getting nearly daily calls from students who can't get into the UW and who want to major in atmospheric sciences. Don't you think I should be concerned about this?...cliff

  6. DJan Look at marine push in the index...you will see the pages...cliff

  7. Cliff, I didn't mean to be uncivil and admitted my own selfish interests. I most certainly believe you've a right to your very deep interests on the subject. I'm really not trying to 'call you out' [in the internet vernacular] but rather trying to establish my own very strong interest on the subject. I hold it dear. Sorry for perceived insult. Yet... I disagree increased tuition and higher property taxes will solve either of our problems [your future students, my financial hardships.] It is just an easy solution which isn't..that's my opinion..also, I promise you it will be Gregoire's undoing..

  8. Yes, Cliff you should be concerned about the possibility of losing TAs but given the forum you have here it would be good to show you can see beyond your own issues with radar, city buses, plows, salt, and TAs at a time when money is a major issue for every family and institution.
    You may or may not know that Seattle public schools are failing to provide a decent education to most of their students. I would gladly have the city take the money they will spend on improvements to snow removal and buses to provide my daughter a decent education (even at the cost of someone having to occasionally miss work). These are tough times that will get tougher and people are going to have to be aware that not every item on their agenda can be society's priority.

  9. “College officials attributed the surge of students to the sinking economy and to the numbers of people who have moved into Western Washington in the past several years
    SeattlePI 1991”

    “Emmert said it would take a systemwide solution and more money to relieve the enrollment pressure at the UW and at other state campuses”
    SeattlePI 2004

    Seems like we would figure this out by now..Cliff seems to be moving from educator to policy maker. The agency (CIA) tried this.. Though I do agree Cliff has every right to promote radar.No question there.

  10. College funding is a thorny issue right now. We asked our son to skip applying at the U of W just because of cost of living issues in downtown Seattle. Living off campus for four of the five years his program requires was more than he could afford.

    While the U of W has a good program it was already well out of his reach before the tuition increase.

    There are plenty of lower cost options for qualified students that are very cost effective. As a graduate of UW I find it sad that our son cannot afford to go there, but feel confident about him spending less while attending the University of Idaho instead.

    Those of us that have students that will not be able to keep up with the yearly increases will find plenty of lower cost options (out of state.) My heart goes out to the Washington state students who are in the middle of their degrees that may have to quit.

  11. Many students go to community colleges for two years and then transfer into the UW. A low-cost option. But there is much more financial aid then many realize. In some depts, scholarships sometimes go unused--with students seemingly uninterested in applying. Hard to believe but true. There are also many options for working on campus. And then there are loans. My own son did the latter. But the bottom line is that it costs a great deal to keep a great state university functioning and you can't cut out 20% and expect that there will be major negative effects. Many families can easily afford the tuition, and a higher tuition/higher aid approach recognizes that.

  12. With all due respect I should mention that many of us have already tapped into all of the sources mentioned. Indeed I am currently reviewing my son's 11th scholarship application, for a total of $110,000 in aid applied for this year. He is still waiting to hear on several applications. And he has tapped out the universities for scholarships too. Working during a demanding program is less than desirable; he is planning on working. Fortunately for him took rigorous course work in Running Start at Olympic College and that shaved 63 credits off his degree. Whether this will translate to finishing early it is unknown because architecture is a professional program. When he recently went to mail his last scholarship application at the post office, 5 other students had come in within the hour to mail the exact same application! It is pretty competitive out there right now, may the best person win!

  13. Zephyr, really admire your 'let the best man win' approach but I think the point is, he's not..it is, 'may the richest man's son win.' And that's the bitch in a nutshell, though nothing new.

  14. Zephyr, really admire your 'let the best man win' approach but I think the point is, he's not..it is, 'may the richest man's son win.' And that's the bitch in a nutshell, though nothing new.

  15. George,
    I understand your sentiment exactly but that sentence was referring to scholarships. And being rich is a detriment for many scholarships; indeed need based scholarships for uber students are great. We fall right in the middle, too much earned income to be need based and too little to afford tuition outright… I bet there is a huge group of us out there that match this situation. Enough said on this subject I am stepping aside for others to chime in.

  16. “Since 2001, the cost of a public higher education has increased by a staggering 46 percent. In Washington state alone, tuition costs at 4-year public colleges have spiked—increasing 63 percent since the fall of 2000.”

    “Tuition costs are skyrocketing, but family incomes of those with college-age children rose by only 3.4 percent between 2000 and 2003. 3.4 percent increase in income versus 63 percent increase in costs? At that rate, there’s no way that family incomes can ever be able to keep pace with those rising costs.
    Quoted above in 2006 from the same Senator who has pushed for coastal radar.

    Student debt in the United States has surged in recent decades, with outstanding federal student debt now topping $500 billion. The Student loan program is on the brink of collapse.”
    The economist
    Some would call this education Aristocracy

  17. Financial aid is drying up, just like everything else.

    We are propping up zombie banks while cutting federal budgets to states.

    Loans for school are going to become a much rarer thing in the future.

    If you're so worried about cutting opportunities for students, you should be brilliant enough to see that raising tuition is going to do just that. Funding gaps are just going to get bigger. You can't bleed blood from a turnip.

    And what you're saying is "get a loan so you can prop up my university". Your university doesn't deserve it. Your university needs to cut, just like every business has cut. Yes, and I'm talking PAY CUTS too, just like everyone else has taken.

    While the power structure is lobbying for the tuition increases, the students who have to pay for them are lobbying the other way. But who is going to lose in the end? The weaker. They always do. And in the end they're going to lose out on the education system. I hope that makes you happy.

  18. Cliff should get some radar for his blog. I bet he didn't see the storm he would unleash when he made it seem like a tuition increase was a good thing.

  19. Its is a complicated subject. Many variables involved here. He may not be selfish but lets be real. I would be worried about my institution as well if it were in a budget crisis, especially the amount of energy and personal dedication one has put into it over the years. You can't fault cliff for being passionate about it. But there needs to be a paradigm shift in higher ed.The proposal may help out in the short term, but is it sustainable in the long term? We always think short term as the economy shows though!


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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