February 22, 2010

OutdoorFun Winter Weather Index: A Record Tying Year!

You come to this blog for the latest information on weather prediction. Cutting edge technology and modeling. Today we will push the envelope with the latest UW advance:

The OutdoorFun Winter Weather Index (OWWI)

When do you feel comfortable working and playing outside? 40s are too cold for most. 50, 51, 52 a little bit chilly and you still need a sheatshirt. 53 is on the margin. But 54F! You start to feel a bit warm. You take off the sweater. You start building a bit of sweat while exercising. Life is good.

Scientists at the UW define the OutdoorFun Index as the number of days from January 1 through February 22 with maxiumum temperatures at our above 54F at Seattle Tacoma Airport. Why January 1 ? Its the new year! Why February 22? Because Feb 23rd is the official start of meteorological spring in Seattle. Don't believe this? Read my book. Even better, buy my book and then read it.

Using the extensive weather archives at the UW, our trained climatologists can now answer the question at the tip of your tongue. How does this year stack up against others using this index?

It turns out we tied for number one, considering a period of sixty years! Twenty four days reaching 54F or above! See the official OutdoorFun Weather Index graph below:1995 was also a fun outdoor winter. It is not your imagination that sweaters were practically optional this winter!

Like the daily-average temperature better? How about the number of days our daily mean temperature is greater than 43F!. Why 43F? Again, read my book. Here is the graph. You guessed it, we are number one. The big Kahuna of warm winters.
Perhaps this is what happens when you get a new mayor. Nickels gets snowappocalype and McGinn gets spring in winter. Clearly, the weather gods look favorably on our new mayor. And I hear they like tunnels and don't like Discovering Math textbooks.

PS: Mathematician Neal Johnson is credited for the above calculations!

PSS: Please no mention of global warming in the comments!


  1. Great new index- where did you get the inspiration for this?

  2. That is pretty great. I took advantage of the outdoor fun and zoomed down to Newport, Oregon for a few days. I swear it was BETTER than in summer. Clear far out to sea, stars at night, and no crowds. This could be a banner year for outdoor activities.

  3. my winter fun depends on snow and we need some more!

  4. Well as a skier and snowboarder I'd have to rank this year down near the bottom. My tennis game has improved though. Thanks for the post Cliff

  5. As a skier and fisherman, I'd say this is a double bad year. Worse than average skiing + bad ocean conditions for salmon and steelhead from El Nino, + low river flows (high mortality) for outmigrating salmon=less outdoor fun now and when this years' young salmon return in reduced numbers!

    I'll admit that the jogging conditions have been great though...

  6. Cliff, I'm a bit of a gardener, so I would also be interested in how we fared on the daily minimum temperature as well.

  7. Between wet/warm, wet/cold, clear/warm, and clear/cold, the only one I hate is wet/warm. Unfortunately that's been most of this winter.

  8. Cliff, we have your book and I am looking through it right now. I can't find anything about meteorological Spring or other seasons in index or in cursory skimming. I am curious about this sort of thing because I am trying to decide what the "seasons" are for the PV panels on my roof. So could you please point us to the section in your book that covers this? I'd love to know how you picked your date.

    February has been awesome for electricity. Our daily consumption is more like our summer averages, and the solar panels are producing like gangbusters. I've never had the net metering going backwards in winter months.

  9. great post thanks.

    I would love a trendline added to the charts...or even the data so I could create my own.

  10. As a cyclist, this is perfect. See you at Noaa a week from friday!

  11. As a cyclist, this is perfect. See you at Noaa a week from friday!

  12. I'm with Carl on this one. This has been a sub-par winter from a fun perspective. For me lots of snow at the passes = fun :-)

  13. @Saxifrage, be careful! If a trendline has a non-zero slope it might not be significant to count for anything!
    @Cliff, is there a way to see which of these years were El Nino and La Nina years and thus make predictions of the outdoor fun index?

  14. @JP (myself) a quick google search will fill you in on what years were El Nino years.

    It looks like from Cliffs graph there were 31 years with a OWWI score less than five. Only two of which were El Nino years. However there were 32 years with a OWWI score greater than or equal to five 13 of which were El Nino years.

    El Nino 13/32 = 40.6%
    Not El Nino 2/31 = 6.4%

  15. Great post - that's funny stuff! I thought it was record-breaking. My weather memory is too short to remember 1995. I do remember the big snow in the following winter in 1996 that knocked the roofs of marinas down though. One can only hope that we can follow up this non-winter with a real one next year.

  16. Now I fully understand why I started feeling so much better 2 days ago, just knowing the official start of meteorological spring in Seattle was on the 23rd shakes off the winter blues.
    So if this meteorological spring in Seattle starts on Feb. 23rd, when does it start 36 miles east of Seattle at the 1000 foot level?

  17. I'd love to see if the number crunching program could come up with the number of below freezing days at the ski areas. It seems like if it's 48 in Seattle, it's usually 33+ at Stevens, maybe 35 at Snoqualmie. If we had a bunch of days above 53, I'd guess there was a pretty steady volume running through the local rivers.

  18. Would love to hear your thoughts for this summer? Another nice one like last summer? I keep hearing (and pretending I didn't!) about a wet summer after el nino winter. Gardeners are wondering!


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