May 04, 2009

The Big Storm

Well, I don't want you to forgot about the big Seattle math decision this week described in the previous blog, but I HAVE to discuss the big storm moving in later today.

It is really extraordinarily intense for this time of the year...reminds me of a strong November to January event. Ironically, we didn't get many strong windstorm/rainstorm events during midwinter due to the anomalous pattern that help in place this year, with a ridging over the eastern Pacific and a cold trough over the Northwest.

Take a look at the two attached satellite is a visible and the other is a water vapor image (in this picture the satellite is describing the amounts of water vapor in the middle to upper troposphere). The signature of a developing strong storm ins unmistakable, with broad areas of deep cloud. The water vapor image show an area of dry air behind the low center (green indicates moisture, black is dry). The strong storms usually have a tongue of dry, descending air right behind the low center.

The computer models indicate the storm will rapidly intensify today, but I think it will be coming in a bit closer than forecast (comparing the simulations against the satellite pictures). The simulations shows the low crossing northern Vancouver island with a low pressure of around 980 millibars (see attached graphics). This track does not bring the primo winds into Puget more than around 20-30 mph from Seattle south very late tonight and tomorrow am. (see wind speed graphic) As the low moves north of us in the early morning hours, the winds in the Strait of Georgia will from Whidbey Is northward it will rock, with wind gusting to 40- 50 mph. The WA coast will get similar wind speeds. However, if track is closer in, as it appears from the satellite pictures at noon, the winds may be greater. I wish we had the coastal radar!!!!

And did I mention the rain...we will get plenty of that. The rain will move into western Washington this afternoon and moderate rain will occur tonight. (see graphic of 24-hr rainfall ending 5 AM tomorrow). Many places in Puget Sound will receive .25 to .75 inches, and the mountains --particularly the SW side of the Olympics will gain 2-4 inches. A nice addition to top off those reservoirs for the summer!
As I mention in my book, late season storms do happen...and some of them have caused tragic deaths, when group hit the mountains in May without checking on the forecast. By the way, for those on the Olympic Peninsula, I will be giving a public talk in Port Townsend on Sunday at 1 PM (see info at right).


  1. Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh MY! Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!!

    Here you go again Cliff -- "Fox style" weather reporting!

    Bet it doesn't pan out....but good for ratings. I know May is a slow month for weather forecasting, but do you have to go Fox on us?

  2. For some odd reason camco, I have a feeling you are right about it not panning out.

    Yet, the other part of me wants to believe that it will to get some excitement in here. I am looking for any change in the satillite imagery that could make me more sure that it will.

    I'm just not putting much faith into it. Hopefully, Mother Nature will prove me wrong!

  3. I dunno, it's nasty out there. Sea Lion Caves and Waldport on the Oregon Coast had peak gusts to 72 earlier today. This is really a wet system for this time of year

  4. Cliff -- The New York Times had an interesting article the other day about how environmentalists should stop using the term "Global Warming" and instead use more accurate terms such as "atmospheric deterioration," reflecting the scientific understanding that yes, climate change occurs naturally (ala Global Warming) but destruction of the atmosphere (via massive pollution) doesn't. Could you comment? Local blowhards such as Dori Monson doesn't get this crucial distinction -- and neither, I'm afraid, do many Washingtonians. We need to change the language about what's actually happening, don't you think? (Yes, maybe global warming is completely "natural," but filling the atmosphere with diesel fumes is not -- and the pollution is what's killing us (lung cancer is at epidedmic levels -- and not because of smoking).

    As for the big storm tonight, make sure to watch the Fox 13 weather guy at 10:00pm. He'll be hopping around the set, twitching with excitement over the impending gloom of "hurricane-force winds" in May (anything to boost sagging FOX ratings, my friends, anything!).

    Makes for good entertainment! (see Mike Judge: "Idiocracy.")

    Sure, there's a (remote) possibility the winds might get to dangerous levels in the Puget Sound basin tonight, but most likely it'll be a little breezy and we'll all wake up Tuesday still having to look for work with no damage done.

  5. Camco,
    I can't understand what you are talking about, really. What does Fox news have to do with anything? At this point the forecast seems to be tracking quite well. Heavy rain is now falling. The winds will come later, but mainly in the NW interior and the coast. This is a major storm for May...cliff

  6. Cliff--
    I stand corrected. Here in Lynnwood/Edmonds the winds are picking up significantly (8:45pm. You're spot on! (Barometric pressure is hard to dispute) Thanks for keeping us posted, on this November-like storm, and especially on the math curriculum developments raging in our school districts.

  7. It's definitely a BIG storm for aside from T-Storms...we usually don't get these type of "low-pressure center winding up" storms in May.

    Excuse my terminology...just a "lay person's" point of view.

    I agree with Cliff, for May, this storm isn't a common occurrence.

  8. Cliff, I very much appreciate your take on the weather, whether your predictions "pan out" or not. More information and expert opinions in the mix only help us to read between the lines and come closer to understanding the complex phenomena of weather.
    Even if it doesn't blow hard we will still have camco who seems to need to be heard on your blog for some reason. He's the only thing here sounding like Fox News. Folks warned about trolls when you started this thing and you must be getting used to it by now.
    It has been quite breezy in Whatcom for a few hours now but nothing like the torrential rain and strong gusts of Saturday night. Cheers!

  9. Hey Dr Cliff,

    when does the sun and the warmth return?

    - Bert

  10. Cliff - thanks for your dedication to this blog. I check it daily and I trust your expertise. I'm 3 miles NNW of Monroe at about 400' - we didn't get any major winds but I was awakened by the hardest rain I've ever heard in this house at 4:55 a.m. Remarkably the creek that runs through my yard doesn't seem to be running higher than normal... anyhow, thanks for your contributions to our knowledge.

    And thanks for the fight on the math text - I'm one who wanted to do something science/engineering related but I never did get through the math to make that happen. I hope the text you propose makes it through and kids have an easier time learning from it...

  11. On This Day, May 05, In 1990, A Strong Pacific Cold Front Moving Rapidly Inland Caused Weather Conditions At The East End Of The Strait Of Juan De Fuca In Washington State To Quickly Change From Sunny And Calm To Westerly Winds Of 60 Mph And Ten-foot Waves.

  12. Renton: We had very strong gusts that shook the house, what sounded like hail then Lighting and thunder last night, then more hail. Quite the storm for May.

  13. Cliff,
    Looking back it seems that the guidance was very good. Numerical, NWS discussions and the TV media. Truly vigorous storm for any month but especially May! With new leafs on trees I was expecting more trees making the news.
    All this without a coastal radar. Would be nice if the satellite loops were longer (8-12 hours).

  14. On This Day, May 06, In 1990, Snow And High Winds Prevailed Behind A Pacific Cold Front Crossing The Northwestern States. Wind Gusts Above 50 Mph Were Reported In Southeastern Idaho, And Heavy Snow Blanketed The Cascade Mountains Of Washington State, With Twelve Inches Reported At Stampede Pass.

  15. Talk about a lotta rain.
    Wednesday: 1.5 inches or how much?

  16. Camco was right! Storm was a dud! Weather hype distracts us from the important issues of the day!


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