July 24, 2009

The Noctilucent Clouds Return and the Upcoming Heat Wave

Many saw the noctilucent clouds again last night and a few of you sent some pictures. Above are some pictures provided by Reid Wolcott (top) and Dennis Bell. The "tendrils" of white and blue-white structures of these extraordinarily high (roughly 50 miles up) clouds are other worldly.

The number of observations of these clouds seem to be increasing and some suggest that global warming is to blame. Global warming? Strangely enough, global warming warms the lower atmosphere (the troposphere), but cools the upper portion of atmosphere in which the noctilucent clouds reside. Very cold temperatures are needed to produce these ice clouds, since so little moisture is available at those levels. Interesting idea, but not proved at this point.

We are on track for an extraordinary heat wave next week...or so the models suggest.We will have very warm air over us. However, to get the real record-breakers, strong offshore and downslope flow is needed and it doesn't look that such easterly flow will develop until mid week. One unusual feature of the predicted heat wave is its duration. Normally, our really hot (above 90F) periods are brief...this could last for days. The warmest days look like Tuesday through Thursday. Some of the media jumped the gun going for the 90s over the weekend. More on this over the weekend...but be ready.

HOT TIP: Nothing does better getting the future temps right than the UW probcast system that uses post-processed ensemble predictions. It always beats other forecast guidance during such warm-up situations. Check it out at:

Right now it is going 89F on Sunday. I bet it is on the mark for this!


  1. The sky opened up with some sparks on the east side...Here we go

  2. I am enjoying the marine layer today, knowing that next week is going to be hot. According to weather.com, we may just burst into flames! (97 for Seattle on Tuesday )


  3. Thanks Cliff - and thanks to Reid and Dennis for the great pics, too! I was watching that very cloud formation last night and wondering about it, since it was such an interesting structure. So I hit your blog this AM and sure enough, you explained it! Awesome.

  4. I thought I spotted those last night. go me!

  5. Yep, it sure looks like it`s gona be HOT, HOT, HOT late this weekend and into at least early or mid part of next week as models show rather high heights and high 1000-500mb thicknesses with 850mb temps up near +24c. So 90`s will likely been seen over much of Western Wa.

    Thanks for posting those cool pics Cliff and thanks to the folks that provided those pics for you to show as well.

  6. Thanks for posting these Cliff!

    If anyone is interested in seeing the rest of the noctilucent clouds photographs from last night and last week you can view them here:


  7. Probcast does seem to get temps really right, Cliff, even for our little "microclimate" upslope from Lake Sammamish in eastern Bellevue.

    Its guesses about precip, especially in the winter, are not so good. Last winter, you and your blog beat Probcast reasonably often. :-)

    I was able to educate some people at the Crossroads P-Patch Community Garden last night about the noctilucent clouds that were bright and beautiful in the sky. It was a great pleasure to be able to explain what they were and why they were special to people who had no idea. Thanks for educating us!!

  8. @Reid,

    Your photos are awesome. Thanks very much for sharing them.

    Where are you located and what's your camera gear?

  9. There is now a chance of thunderstorms over the area tomorrow, so keep that in mind as well! The heat wave will probably last into next weekend as well....sheesh

  10. JR,

    I'm pretty sure Wunderground.com just gives the NWS forecasts; I don't think it's an independent weather forecasting business like weather.com (= The Weather Channel) is. Of course, there's also Intellicast, AccuWeather, and probably many others . . .

    For me, I actually look forward to the heat. To me, summers are "supposed" to get hot, at least part of the time. Of course, I'll probably start hating it at some point. At any rate, I'm glad that Sunday now is supposed to be only pleasantly warm since my wife and I are planning to go to the Scottish Highland Games in Enumclaw that day.

  11. JewelyaZ -

    I live in Lake Forest Park, the pictures were taken from Log Boom Park. You can see my gear list if you scroll to the bottom of this page:


  12. Reid... really nice photos you have shown us and truly amazing to see on what other wise might be a rare site here in Western WA....but not the case over past couple nights as some of you folks have seen those cool clouds.

  13. Well, Reid, I like that you were not deliberately advertising your business here :-) and ++ for putting one of your excellent noctilucent cloud photos across the banner of your site.

    We just had family portraits taken in March, and they are awesome, but I will contact you next time. We drove down to University Park in March and that was just too far from Bellevue. I will say, though, that Alicen made our decidedly not-pretty family look pretty good. LOL http://picasaweb.google.com/juliaz/PhotoShoot030109AlicenLum02#

  14. Some dates of the peak of worst weather this year, to give some hope and reason to celebrate that after these dates, things, on average, start getting better, albeit very slowly at first. :)

    July 24 (already now past) - Lowest Average Daily Precipitation
    July 31 and August 1 - Highest Average Cooling Degree Days
    August 1 - Highest Average Maximum Temperature
    August 2 and 3 - Highest Average Average Temperature
    August 4 - Highest Average Minimum Temperature
    August 4 - Precipitation Frequency begins to increase a little
    August 9 - Maximum Temperature Frequency above 70 Degrees begins to decrease a little bit more noticably
    August 14 - Minimum Temperature Frequency above 55 Degrees begins to decrease a little bit more noticably

  15. Cloud cover rolling in from the east, through Olympia. Radar doesn't show anything threatening.

  16. 8PM:
    Thunder over here in Kingston, about every minute, with just minor spitting for rain.

    Also for a short time, I saw something that looked like a funnel cloud up near the cloud base. Nice, conical cloud tapering 1:4, sort of at 30 degrees from horizontal coming out of the clouds. A few moments later, it was gone.

  17. The tv news tonight showed it rained briefly on the Torchlight parade

  18. Like JewelaZ and Anycottle, I want to thank Reid for sharing the wonderful cloud and moon photos on his "wedding photos" site, both from our Lake Forest Park area (Logboom) and Richmond Beach.

    And, we were at a Bengali Buffet dinner party in Magnolia last night, where, after a prelude of thunder, we got off-and-on rain: big droplets, but so few that we all continued to feast and converse on the outdoor deck. Then, when we arrived home in Lake Forest Park around 10 PM, there were puddles on our deck railings but the rain had stopped, as it had for the rest of the drive home.
    Not enough to help our thirsty plants, and with today's temps, it'll all be headed skyward anyway, right?



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