January 11, 2010

Wet and Warm

This figure shows you the last day's precipitation using a new technology calibrating the local weather radars with rain gauges at the surface. Over central and southern Puget Sound a number of areas got 1-1.5 inches and everyone had at least a half-inch. Minor urban and road flooding has occurred throughout the region. This is certainly more than last night's computer models were showing (see the graphic with yesterdays 24-h forecast ending 4 PM today). The rain shadow in the lee of the Olympics was in full force and very heavy rain--reaching 3-5 inches were observed on the NW side of the Olympics.

Because we don't a have a coastal radar we can't see where the rain was heaviest...probably 5-7 inches on the windward (SW) side of the Olympics. The result will be flooding on several Olympic Rivers. The mountains of Vancouver Island received similar heavy amounts.

But the other side of this event was the warmth. Take a look at the latest Seattle Tacoma Airport 2-week plot. The minimum temperature last night was higher than the normal MAXIMUM. But the craziest temperatures occurred around 2 AM last night when temperatures at Bellingham and some neighboring site surges into the lower 60s (see plot). The reason: a push of SE flow off the Cascades and Chuckanut mountains, with descending flow causing compressional warming.

And the warmth is back tonight! Ten Mile AgWeatherNet site (4 mi NNE of KBLI) got to 65F this evening at 6:30 PM

We are now stuck in a warm, wet pattern because the upper level configuration has shifted eastward. The ridge aloft has pushed inland, leaving us open to warm, moist southwesterly flow. (see graphic). The east will now starting warming up as the cold air source of northern Canada will not longer supply the eastern half of the U.S. Southern Florida will be back in the 60s tomorrow and 70s on Thursday.

The next 48 hr will bring more rain to the region, with a major break on Thursday.


  1. BLI got up to 65°F tonight as well; which equaled their all-time warmest January high temperature.

  2. Cliff, Very impressive to see that hurricane ridge lived up to it's name today by recording 8 hrs of hurricane force winds with a peak gust of 115! Do you know what the all time record wind gust is there?

  3. A fellow classmate of mine currently enrolled at Whitman college emailed me and said her car thermometer read 34 at ten and walked outside an hour later and it was 62. That exact type of wind you discribed.

  4. Can you provide more information about the technology or model name that was used to calibrate the local radars with the rain gauges?

  5. I'm about 13 miles NE of Bellingham, and it was in the 60's yesterday evening. Warm & windy, then it started raining. My fruit trees are going to be cranky.

  6. Isn't the moistness of our late fall and winter weather atypical of an El Nino?

  7. Dear Dr. Mass,
    I am Tyra. And I am doing a project in 7th grade science on lightning storms and I need some help on finding a severe storm to research. SO I was wondering if you could suggest a great,severe,catastrophic storm. Beacause I am having a very hard time finding something to research on storms ...... sincerely a very troubled girl... P.s ... a tutor suggested that i would email/comment too you... Thank you..

  8. Hi there, speak'n of rain, here's a fun clip that was made yesterday.


  9. Cliff,
    Tyra is one of the students I tutor. We had a tough time finding a famous lightning storm for her research. Looking forward to hearing what you suggest!

  10. Is there any hope for snow in the lowlands this winter? Or at pass level for that matter?


  11. Sadly, my friend, methinks that we are getting the opposite of last winter. We do not appear to live in an area with rational weather. Now, if we start having rainy summers, I am out of here.

  12. Cliff,
    I was wondering if you could comment or blog a little more as what larger atmospheric patterns have been at work the past two weeks giving us these abnormally warm temperatures? Is it because the upper level flow has come from the south/southwest, where temps are warmer out in the pacific? Do we need nw flow aloft to give us cold enough temps to get our typical winter snowlines of 2.5-3 kft?

    Also, it seems like the lapse rates have been much lower than normal lately. Last Friday, it was raining steadily and 42 degrees in seattle at 300 feet asl, and 35 degrees at the top of crystal mountain at 6800 feet asl. Does this also have to do with sw flow or is it unrelated? There was strong, cold easterly winds over the passes at the time. Was that cooling the air at ground level in seattle?

  13. As a native here, I have often been forced to say, "well, I guess we won't be having a summer this year" and this time, I'll say, "it looks like we won't be having a winter."

    48 degrees and rain is so boring.

  14. Tyra,
    check out:

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2010217662_webweather06m.html for a case...or email me...cm


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