January 20, 2010

Warmest January in Seattle History?

It could happen...

Lets face it, the temperatures this month have been amazingly warm...we are experiencing April temperatures in mid January. Take a look at the plot of temperatures this month versus the daily average maxima and minima (plot).Many of our days have hit highs 5-13 F ABOVE NORMAL, and our minima have generally been higher than the normal maxes. Remarkable. The average temperature this month has been 47.55F--a month when the climatological average is
around 40F--7.5F above normal!!! The warmth this month is essentially due to the generally warm southwesterly flow, although for the last few days, downslope warming has added several degrees.

The warmest January on record was in 2006 when the daily average was 46.6F. So at this rate we are on track to beat it...IF...we stay warm. Unfortunately, temps will cool down to around normal (or perhaps a little warmer than that) this weekend, before a pineapple express heat wave strikes again midweek. We will come close...but no guarantee of being number one. But we will probably be in the top ten warm Januarys in any case. My garden is starting to react--bulbs are pushing up, a chorus of bird songs is rising , and the grass seems to be growing a bit.

Today was extraordinary....strong east winds in the Puget Sound lowlands and spring-like warmth. I went running during lunch to experience it all...there were strong easterly winds, with white caps on Lake Washington. Easterlies are pretty unusual in Seattle...and today's flow was moving right up and over the mountains. As this air subsides on the western slopes there is compressional warming that gives the temps an added boost. The Seattle profiler shows this easterly flow clearly...and the warming when it revved up earlier. The strong easterly flow tonight is keeping the temperatures up--when I biked home around 6:30 PM is was balmy and mild.

Sometimes I am too myopic about the west side..so let me say that the eastern side of the mountains are megawarm too....particularly since around January 10. Don't believe me? Check out the Spokane record below. Eastern Washington is really a bowl and during the winter it typically fills up with cold, cloudy air. The Tri-Cities is no vacation spot in January! (don't email me any complains about this--I am already getting too many comments from the pro-Jim Foreman crowd). This year the cold air was scoured out and warmth and sun has been enjoyed eastside. Is this good or bad for the fruit crops?


  1. It would depend on whether there was a frost later on.

    There are actually people who defend Danger Jim?...interesting!

  2. I'm betting snow flurries at least once before we finish out this winter.

  3. I went running today at Mercer Slough around 10:00 AM--I was positively euphoric with the sun and warmth. However, I'd REALLY like some snow in the mountains!

  4. You're exactly right about east of the mountains. We traded positions with you this week though. Its been cool (relative to you) and damp. Received about .3 tonight and over an 1' total this week which is a lot for our standards.

    Current Snotels really tell the story. Olympics above average due to multiple pineapple express. Mid slopes of western side basically bare due to that warmth, and eastside average due to cooler air trapped.

  5. It's warm up here in Vancouver too.

    I walked to work this morning dressed in a suit, no coat. Tonight I walked back late, just the suit, and it was pleasantly cool out.

    Lovely weather for people, but Olympic organizers probably are biting their nails to the quick.

  6. Man that's some low pressure out there today, and clear sky, very little wind.

  7. Cliff, I'm loving this weather, I won't lie... but I'm curious about what El Nino is likely to bring us for Feb - May. Is it going to stay warmer and drier than normal here on the Eastside?

    I'm getting ready to write a "get ready for Spring" blog post for the Bellevue City News (Seattle P-I) and I'm trying to figure out if, on a normal El Nino year, it's possible to set plants out in the garden earlier than on a "normal" year.

    I know it would be hard to say, "in 2010, April will be..." but maybe it's possible to point me to resources about what typical Seattle El Nino Aprils are like?

    Many thanks! Territorial and all the rest have sent me their "seed p0rn" catalogs and it's hard to resist breaking out the peat pots NOW even though it's too early for anything except maybe cold-tolerant lettuces. :-)

  8. JewelyaZ,

    Though it does not directly address your question, you might want to go to http://www.cpc.noaa.gov/ as a beginning and take a look at the just updated Three Month Outlook info. They're staying with the warmer-and-dryer than average prediction for WA, as it was predicted for this month (even though the dryer than normal part has not yet been the case).

  9. Lindsey,

    That's a great resource, thanks! I found some other cool stuff at the NASA Earth Observatory site too. Cliff, care to weigh in on what our spring/planting out time will be like? You're so quotable! :-)

  10. Is the wetter-than-normal-el-nino behavior in the PNW due to the greater presence of MJO activity in the equatorial pacific during this El Nino? If I remember correctly, there's a link between MJO activity and pineapple expresses in the PNW -- but El Nino's normally supress MJO...

  11. Here's my blog post... I'd love to hear any factual corrections and can make them directly to the blog posting if you email them to me @ bellevueblogmom @ gmail.com (remove spaces). Thanks!!

    Wanna get dirty? A mailbox full of (garden) porn! It's totally safe for work, I promise. :-)

  12. I too am thinking of my food-producing plants, and think I'm going to give some new lettuces a chance. New! I still have some that have't died off and are still producing!

  13. Planter boxes along the south wall of Jane Addams school have daffodils in full bloom. For you non-gardeners, that usually happens in March. Freaky.

  14. I just returned from spending the day at preschool with my son. On the drive back, I saw a few cherry trees with pink blossoms. Not unheard of, I remember it happening before, but it's early. Just more evidence of how warm it is.


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