April 20, 2009

Temperature, Mountains Wave Clouds, and Math Education in Seattle

What a difference a day makes. Today was splendid, nearly no clouds, and temperatures reaching the 70s in Puget Sound land and the 80s near Portland (see map above for 5 PM, Monday). In contrast, yesterday was far cooler from Seattle northward. The big reason...an area of clouds produced by mountain waves forced by the Olympics (see satellite picture). In fact, yesterday had spectacular mountain wave cloud downstream of not only the Olympics..but major volcanoes like Mt. Rainier. John Sahr of the UW sent me a wonderful picture of the Rainier wave clouds taken from the east side at Manastash Ridge Observatory, south and west of Ellensburg at about 4000'.

In the satellite picture you can actually see two types of mountain wave clouds. The ones downstream of the Olympics are high in the atmosphere...these are called vertically propagating wave clouds. If look carefully you will see lines of regularly spaced cloud east of the north Cascades..there are trapped lee wave clouds...and are located much lower in the atmosphere. If you want to learn more about these mountain waves, check out my book...I have a whole section on them.

The good weather will hold up one more day...although tomorrow will probably be a few degrees cooler. As shown in the forecast model output below for 8 AM on Wednesday...an energetic cold front will be crossing the area at that time...resulting in the temps on Wed dropping into the 50s, with a few showers as well (nothing serious).
Math Education: Seattle School District is poised to make a big mistake

Finally, a little editorial. Some of you may know that I feel strongly that math education in our state has declined during the past decade or so. Students are coming to the UW without basic competency in math and some wanting to major in atmospheric sciences can't do so because their math background is so poor. Anyway, the Seattle School Board is on the verge of making a huge error in the selection of high school math textbooks...picking the extremely poor "Discovering" Algebra, Discovering Geometry Series by Key Curriculum, which are weak fuzzy/reform math texts. This curricula was found to be “mathematically unsound” by the Washington State Board of Education consultants, and has been removed from the State’s Recommended High School Programs List. Definitions, computational algorithms, and formulas are vaguely stated if they are stated at all. The program does not include enough practice for mastery. Lots of use of calculators. Local and national mathematicians have expressed their written concerns about the soundness of these programs.

The selection was made by the district's math curriculum committee. In contrast, the second place Prentice Hall program, which was favored by a minority of the committee (5 to 8 in committee vote), provides a balanced and content-rich resource for teachers, students, and parents to collaboratively support success. Prentice Hall teaches authentic algebra as recommended by the National Math Advisory Panel and does not include excessive calculator exercises.

The district developed a textbook review process which included no mathematicians and that conflicts with state recommendations and key ideas presented by the National Math Advisory Panel. This is the same process which selected the current elementary and middle school programs, and they have not helped increase student achievement or reduce the achievement gap.

This will be an important vote even if your children are currently in elementary school. You can make a difference by writing a short message to school board directors asking them to reject the district’s program recommendation. FINAL VOTE will be on April 22nd.

School Board Directors:
Michael DeBell - michael.debell@seattleschools.org
Sherry Carr - sherry.carr@seattleschools.org
Harium Martin-Morris - harium.martin-morris@seattleschools.org
Peter Maier - peter.maier@seattleschools.org
Cheryl Chow - cheryl.chow@seattleschools.org
Steve Sundquist - steve.sundquist@seattleschools.org
Mary Bass - mary.bass@seattleschools.org

PS: more information at



  1. Hey Cliff, that`s a pretty cool picture of lenticular clouds right near Mt.Rainier. I myself saw an interesting lenticular cloud over Rainier on Saturday while up at Tiger Mountain.

    As far as today goes...it was pretty nice indeed. Very sunny and mild with my high getting up to 76.

  2. Thanks for the pic of the clouds Cliff - I saw one lenticular on Sun. Seemed to float off to the east of Rainier from my perspective while on I90 bridge. Now didn't that come up in an earlier post, that it indicates high winds on the summit?

  3. Cliff-

    Early evening on Sunday we observed an unusual Lenticular cloud in the lee of Mt. Rainier that has a pronounced tail, distinctly trailing downward, with a smaller upward curl at the end. extreme stability? Some kind of wind shear? I've never seen one with that sort of form before.


  4. Cliff, will your department get any of the stimulus money? http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2009091984_sciencemoney21m.html Has there been any movement (ha!) on getting coastal radar through this program?

    I sure wish this money could be used to patch things up in a way that would keep tuition lower and students flowing in in good number, but I'm glad that at least the basic research can continue at such a good pace. I think it's a good investment and I'm glad for the good jobs that it will bring to our area.

  5. I thought you said the weather was going to be great yesterday. That was a terrible forecast - the weather was even worse than on the weekend! I'm so glad I decided (using my own forecast) to cancel my hike yesterday and reschedule it for another day.

    Bring back the weather!

  6. Weather...the weather was terrible yesterday?&*$# I think your definition of terrible must be unusual...

    Fred...I saw the same thing...the lenticular cloud was precipitating ice crystals...

  7. Weather....

    You think the weather was terrible yesterday? Wow. Do you not like warm, sunny weather? Yesterday was great for doing anything outdoors, which includes hiking.:o) I hope you can enjoy warm sunshine like so much of us are wanting to see.

  8. Cliff, I agree with what you're saying about math education in this area (not just in Seattle.) My son, who has a known learning issue with math (part of his more-general neurological disability,) was still better at algebra when he entered college than most of his classmates, who had gone through the normal progression of math classes in the Edmonds SD. Ironically, perhaps, I taught him algebra using a Key Curriculum Press product--their Key to Algebra workbook series, which was excellent. I'm sorry to see that their textbooks are so poor in quality. The college uses Brooks/Cole's "Elementary Algebra" and "Understanding Intermediate Algebra," which are pretty decent, although instructors in technical classes still find it necessary to spend a few minutes "reviewing" algebra and trigonometry before using them in their lectures.

    When I started college (decades ago,) I was behind the rest of my class because I'd only had one year of calculus. Why in the world would school districts think they were doing anyone a favor by dumbing down their math curricula???

    BTW, I'm planning to enjoy the weather today whether it's sunny or not, lol! It's already 53 degrees in bright sun here.

  9. Finally a sunny, beautiful day! It appears the geoengineers have taken the day off..

    Speaking of which, Cliff could you please comment on all of the recent "geoengineering" activities occurring over the PNW skies and how much the temps in the region are actually being reduced with introduction of these reflective aerosols?

  10. Here we go again...."Weather is my life" is at it again. It's like Dick Cheney coming back on the airwaves saying the same thing over and over.

  11. Hi Cliff. Long time reader, rare poster. Your math comments caught my eye for two reasons -- first, I have near-school-age kids, and second, my Mom is a math curriculum specialist in Portland (she evaluates and consults with districts on math curriculum).

    I sent your comments to her (without telling her anything about them) and asked for her thoughts.

    I thought they were interesting, and might add to the thinking, so I will pass them along:

    "I did know that Seattle is choosing new texts, and also the inner city scores are dropping. Although the Key Curriculum Math Texts aren't perfect (Beaverton has used them for years, along with the CMP, which is even more reform minded and the students have done well), it is also not as horrible as this editorial makes it seem. Prentice Hall is a traditional curriculum that leaves too many students behind, however it may meet the needs of the few students that want to major in atmospheric sciences. In adition, the recommendations of the National Math Advisory Panel are misstated. After reading the report, it was obvious to me this would happen."

    Best regards to everyone, and here's hoping that whatever text Seattle chooses, our children do well in math!

  12. The weather has been great. I too saw the lenticulars over the mtns and got a bit worried.

    The math curriculum is a tough one, as like the weather, it is subjective.

  13. Josh-B, you're saying the same thing again too. :) So is Cliff Mass. So I'm allowed to as well.

    Cliff, is the marine push going to happen tonight? Or not until tomorrow/tomorrow night? Definitely looking forward to it!

  14. Regarding Seattle Schools Math...

    My son is currently in middle school and uses the Key Curriculum booklets. I must say, they are BAD! The explanations are very limited and incomplete. The problems/questions are not always clear either. Having worked with the curriculum, his teacher had to tell the entire class at the beginning of the year they could write, "I don't understand what this question is asking me" on their homework. She follows up with the individual, or the group to expain what the intention of the question was. That shouldn't need to happen. I can only imagine how this will be multiplied as the concepts advance. Yikes!

  15. Chrisotpher,

    thanks for your comments and your mother's perspective. And thanks to Cliff for the heads up about this decision.

    I have two elementary age kids, and what I have seen so far of the math curriculum in Seattle schools has not impressed me.

    I guess I'm pretty 'old school', but it served me well. For some reason, the School board thinks this fuzzy math is more 'culturally sensitive' or something. I don't have anything to back up that statement, but that seems to be the ethos.

    In my opinion it's a patronizing attitude to say that some kids can't handle 'real' math, and will be left behind if it's not softened up somehow.

  16. Cliff, this decision is important even to those of us whose children have graduated from school, and to those of us who have no children. A math-literate populace is important to everyone. Our educational system's failures in math and science education affect everyone.

    Math and science shouldn't be limited to school, though. We need students to have access to all kinds of informal math and science learning opportunities (for example, at the Pacific Science Center, the Museum of Flight, and the Zoo). Kids need to see math and science as an everyday part of life, and as interesting in themselves, not just as a school subject. Weather is a perfect vehicle for this kind of learning!

  17. Two things here:

    If anyone of you were to ask me how the weather was today....I would describe it as nice, great, excellent, fabulous. And hope everyone enjoyed it. And to 'weather is mylife'...hope you enjoyed it to. Or did you?

    Math wise...it is an important subject and most certainly true if wanting to get into Meteorology. Which I would like to do, but for me, that is going to take going back to school and taking math/ science classes. Which I`m ooookay at math, just not great. But ya know, you just go at your own skill level when it comes to math.

  18. "weather is my life", find another place to post your drivel. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that it is repetative and obnoxious.

  19. First of all, hey Dr. Mass! You may remember me - I was in a couple of your classes, think back about 7-8 years.

    WeatherIsMyLife, I'd like to respond to a couple of your messages in particular. I've been watching this blog for a little while and seen a couple of your messages as well as others, and thought I would take some time to respond.

    Today was a nice day, the others are right. That said, I completely understand your point of view as well, and I would ignore the others’ posts as much as I can. In fact, I myself prefer the cooler, cloudy days of late fall through early spring more than the clear warm/hot days of spring through early fall. So I completely emphasize with you. But yet, today was nice in its own way. "Nice" and other such terms are, in fact, subjective, but regrettably have become perceivably objective over the course of a long time.

    On the one hand, many people don't care for looking at the intricacies of clouds or getting a little wet if it is raining or drizzling (more likely the latter around here). Around here, it doesn’t get cold, so most natives and those who have lived here for some time perceive anything below, say, 60 or so as cold. There is also a general opinion that the Northwest does not receive much sun, so when sun shows up, people tend to think they are seeing something rare. But it still is nice in its own right anyway, if nothing else for a change in pace from the lively days of winter. Besides, you should be thankful for the sun; it is the mechanism that drives all weather in the first place. I think one of the major issues for you from what I’ve seen is the lack of variation in the weather with long stretches of cloudy and drizzly weather (about six months) followed by long stretches of sunny days (also about six months) that get repetitive and monotonous after not very long.

    On the other hand, it’s also completely understandable those people that have general conditions that inhibit them from enjoying days in the warmth and sun as much as days without either. These are numerous and include but are not limited to allergies, light sensitivity, heat stroke, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – the more rare winter version, skin sensitive to sunburn, and migraines (which can be a result of the first two or simply caused by sun itself). I myself have many of these. I try to enjoy days like today, just as much as I enjoy the nice days of winter, even though these sometimes get in the way.

    There’s also the issue of liking weather itself, I know. Believe me, I love weather; I have taken meteorology coursework as well as have forecasting experience. While on days like this it seems like there is no weather going on, there is some. Temperature itself, for example, is weather. It’s not a very exciting one, particularly here where it doesn’t vary a lot, but it is still weather. Marine pushes in the summer can be interesting. Downslope flow (though leading to “boring” weather conditions here in Puget Sound) can be interesting too. Other than that, yes, there aren’t many interesting things going on for the better part of six months of the year. I’ve taken some classes from Dr. Mass, and speaking for him, I know he likes meteorology. He can be enthusiastic about it in his classes.

    But I think one problem is that people interpret meteorology and weather to be the same thing. Weather is what happens in our atmosphere; meteorology is the study of weather. Dr. Mass is much more interested in meteorology than in the weather, and I think most meteorologists are. I worked once in a National Weather Service office where some of the forecasters liked meteorology, virtually none liked weather, and the rest didn’t like either and admitted that they only went into the field in hopes of someday working in southern California or Hawaii and being able to do nothing every day (a very poor reason if you ask me!). Those meteorologists who do like weather, even Dr. Mass to some extent, seemingly like to hide it because they don’t want the public to know they like weather. Believe me though, there are some out there, like me, that not only like weather, but aren’t afraid to tell that to people even if it makes me (them) look like “weirdos.” I don’t call any weather “bad” – I find it extremely difficult to call something bad when I like it. I’m not sure how some people who do like it can refer to it as such. Then there are those meteorologists who maybe you assume like weather, but they don’t – they just like studying it (i.e. they like meteorology), and there’s a big difference. This is why it’s difficult to go into the meteorology field when you like weather. When you hear someone refer to any weather as “bad” or “nasty” or “depressing” or “gloomy,” etc., you know that they either don’t like weather, or they like it but are trying to hide the fact that they do for some reason. I think in Dr. Mass’s case, part of the reason he was trying to make a statement to agree with the general public is to sell his book. That’s probably not the full reason, though.

    Speaking of the general public, as I stated earlier, subjective terms have regrettably become perceivably objective over the course of a long time. I’m not yet completely sure what this is caused by. The media, perhaps, who broadcasts subjective messages to people? But the media hasn’t been around forever. Parents, perhaps, who have passed on for centuries some subjective opinions, where the apparent majority has become so widely accepted that the terms are now perceived as objective? Nowadays, people don’t even take a second thought about why they really feel certain ways about certain weather. They don’t think twice – they were taught a certain way when they were babies and as they grew up and that’s the way it is, no thinking that this is a subjective opinion and not actually objective. They get constant convincing from media and many other sources that they don’t need to question. Some do, but get completely overwhelmed by those that don’t. And some who do decide that they do, in fact, like warm/hot and sunny conditions better than cooler and cloudier weather. Some don’t. But it’s interesting to theorize that if it wasn’t for the media and generations upon generations of subjectiveness turning into objectiveness, more people would have differing opinions. I’m actually beginning research on this very subject now. Meteorological psychology? Psychological meteorology? Psychological affects of the media (and other things) on the public’s interpretation of the weather? Something like that.

    In short WeatherIsMyLife, there are people who definitely understand where you are coming from. I’d encourage you to reread what I said above though, to see how you can accept the weather for what it is, day in and day out, and accept other people even though they may make comments you don’t understand, especially meteorologists. Believe me, I’ve been there and done that; I had to forecast the weather with a whole office of people who relentlessly wished weather away and who celebrated when there was no weather and they had nothing to do. Though I don’t understand it, I can assure you there are people out there who do like what you and I do. I know how it feels to think you are alone in liking what you do, but rest assured that you aren’t. We’re out there. Unfortunately we just don’t get much opinion or much say about what we like or enjoy because the vast majority of people believe that it’s not possible to think outside the box.


  20. I am a retired Electromagnetics Engineer, almost 74 years old, spending a couple year in Antarctica 50 years ago then 30 years at Boeing.

    I can remember when I was 7 years old helping carry my dad's briefcase to Denver School Board meetings listening to him complain against John Dewey's awful influence on the Math education. Dad was a High School Math and History teacher before he started raising chickens and many other things.

    About 35 years ago I visited my own Highline School Board and asked them who was responsible for my son's math education since they knew more math when they started kindergarten then they did in 3rd and 4th grades?

    They told me that apparently I was so we pulled them from the government school and put them in private school. Three times the education at one third the cost.

    I recommend:

  21. I love weather. All kinds. I am embarrassed to say what great joy I take in the storms that have potential to wreck lives and property; I feel for those folks though I am fascinated with natural phenomena. But I am a gardener and a hiker. On those warm spring days I can get on my hands and knees and plant and weed and work the soil like I cannot in the rain. When the sun is out it is constantly moving from our perspective and the light and shadows constantly shifting. Colors are brighter, shadows are darker, the bright red chin patch of the Rufous Hummingbird appears only in sun and is a dull grey thing on cloudy days. A storm is exhilarating and challenging. Rainy days are calming and soothing at times. Warm sun days give me joy and a sense of ease and nurturing. So forgive us if we claim the sunny weather is "nice" or "good weather". You can have "exhilarating", "stimulating", "bracing', whatever you like. Or you can keep swimming upstream with little chance at spawning...

  22. Hello, Nick

    I enjoyed your post. I like the variance of weather, but probably prefer the slightly cooler days. However, I know why I like different weather patterns. I like gloomy drizzly days as they remind me of childhood vacations when the family might be holed-up inside, playing board games together, or hiking in the rain because mom had cabin fever. Hot muggy weather reminds me of flight school in Florida and in Texas. Clear cold mornings remind me of asking Maintenance for an F4B instead of an F4J Phantom II to fly, as the older plane did not have constant-mass-airflow engines, and performed so much better on cold days. Stormy days remind me of storms out on the ocean aboard the aircraft carrier, and so on. I like weather because it reminds me I’m alive and sentient.

  23. On This Day, April 22, In 1931, Clouds Of Dust Were Raised By Strong Northeast Winds Which Raked Northern Oregon. The Dust Was Blown Over The Pacific Ocean, Where Ships 600 Miles Offshore Reported Dusty Skies.

  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

  25. Hi Cliff. Thanks for posting the picture showing the wave formations in the clouds. I have a question about the clouds off the coast of Oregon that run North and South. It looks like a crevass and it's really straight for hundreds of miles. What's going on there?

  26. Nick,

    Thanks for your post. I also share your passion for observing this wonderful force of nature we call weather and have been a sky watcher and amateur meteorologist since I was a child. I also agree with your statement that "the vast majority of people believe that it’s not possible to think outside the box", especially as it pertains to weather.

    With that said I find it very interesting that so many people who consider themselves knowledgeable and skilled weather observers (both professional and amateur) are oblivious, or in denial, to the fact that there are very active govt "Geoengineering" programs that are currently operational, and have been for some time, in the skies above many regions of the US, including the Pacific Northwest.The regional operation here in the PNW appears to involve the extensive and routine release of reflective aerosols high in the atmosphere via aircraft with the presumed intent(?) of cooling the Cascade mountain range and slow the melting of the snow pack from which we derive all of our water for drinking and farming. That's at least the theory...

    As we all know weather can be very unpredictable given all of the variables involved. I'm just wondering when and if the meteorological establishment is going to publicly acknowledge and discuss the existence and impact of these man-made variables on our regional (and national) weather systems.

    P.S.- Before the "conspiracy nut" arrows are flung this way I encourage any doubters to start looking up in the sky and into the mountain of past/present govt funded "geoengineering" studies and programs.

  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

  28. Nick
    Southern California does nothing all day?? Have you ever heard of Santa Ana Winds? What about subtropical moisture booming off some cells over the Tehachapi. Oh yea Hawaii is under a flash flood watch today. I won’t forget Hurricane Iniki either. Most mets including fire mets are not sitting on there asses playing video games and wondering why they got into this line of work. The very “Media” you talk about has programmed you to assume that these places don’t have there fair share of very unstable conditions in the atmosphere. I won’t say that every day is peachy; every profession has its slow times.

    As for terminology. We get the point, like we did months ago. Like Weather said, “I'm so glad I decided (using my own forecast) to cancel my hike yesterday and reschedule it for another day.” Well done, I say. Keep using it using your forecast. To assume Professor Mass doesn’t like the weather because of they way he describes it is asinine.

    We understand that some people call weather differently. But to say “that was a terrible forecast” as weather is my life did is saying Cliff was wrong and should be stripped of his expertise. Terms take on different meaning from different times of the season. As long as forecasters are giving the raw data along with the historic human wordage, things can be real. Heck lets use robots to forecast the weather. Lets take all human history and its complex social communication (more than just media engineering) and turn it into a simple yes and no. 1 or 2. Ah, mets don’t like the weather anyway right..Take them out of the loop.

    I wonder why weather keeps coming back to this blog if Cliff is always wrong and illogical. Sounds like a waste of time.

  29. Thanks Nick. Your post helps. I enjoyed reading it. I know I can keep posting and not care about the others' posts. I'm stating my opinion, which is only fair because they state theirs too. If they don't like opposing viewpoints, then that's not my problem. Thanks.

  30. About math curriculum.

    Students should be doing Saxon Math at the elementary level

    As engineers and certified teachers my husband and I were shocked by the poor curiculum choices of our public schools.

    I "retired" early to homeschool our kids until they are eligible to attend the Running Start program for the last 2 years of high school.

    I looked at the Key Curriculum Press Geometry series. It calls for the kids to develop the therom's themselves. This is possible and even good if you have a one on one socratic teaching situation but it would be a failure in a class setting. Plus they never do confirm what the therom is!

    My kids would have attended public school if the curriculum was stronger. Until then, they can learn at home.

  31. W is my life, Are you such a sad sack in real life, or do you just play one on the internet?

    Seriously, give it and us a break with you moping when the sun comes out. I don't bitch in public every time it is cloudy, how about you don't when it is sunny. Deal?

  32. Cliff-
    Today is Wednesday and yesterday I think a sandstorm came through. At least out here on Mercer Island. My wife and I were biking yesterday and both of us got irritated eyes. Then this morning I found lots of small deposits of very fine sand, almost powdery. I was not aware of that blowing on the wind yesterday. It seems to be a clean yellow color but I am wondering where it cam from. Any ideas. I found these deposits on the south and north end of mercer island, so that is at least 6 or 7 miles apart. Not sure if it got into Seattle or elsewhere. Eyes are still aching today. Thanks for any insight if you know about this.

  33. David

    I noticed that same yellow "powder" on my car in particularly yesterday. It was pollen from area trees and plants you were seeing. With the nice sunny weather and warm temperatures the past couple days area vegetation was active in growth, and the pollen was blown off our plants by the breezy conditions yesterday afternoon.

  34. Also David, if your eyes are still aching today next time you go biking wear sunglasses if you normally don't and visit the pharmacy for some drugs to temper your reaction to the pollen, sounds like you have at least some kind of allergies going on there.

  35. All,
    Yes, pollen does leave a deposit on cars. And the comments about some kind of geoengineering going on around here is without any basis. And it wouldn't work anyway..cliff

  36. Thanks Weathernerd, that clears up the mystery. Wow, what a blast of pollen. Immense amounts of that stuff around right now.
    My wife wears glasses and I had sunglasses on most of the ride. Neither of us has any allergies, so I am thinking it was just the physical accumulation of pollen in the eyes. Maybe we should have worn ski goggles!

  37. David

    Well, next time it is sunny and warm outside you have an excuse to not go biking and take it easy instead--to avoid the high amounts of pollen. :) That stuff seems to be less of a problem once you get to June and July. On Sunday I was outside sneezing like crazy.

  38. Apparently these mountain-wave and/or lenticular clouds are related to Gravity Waves. I just found this cool timelapse video of gravity waves in clouds on Digg.


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

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