February 16, 2011

Lowland Snow Chances Fading on Thursday

Forecasting snow over the western Washington and Oregon lowlands is a subtle game. To get snow, everything needs to set up right...and as I have noted before, it is easy for us to be mild and wet or cold and dry, but to be cold and wet takes some doing around here.

The models on Monday looked like we had a significant shot at lowland snow, particularly above a few hundred feet and away from the water. But the trend of the recent runs has been a westward shift of a key feature--a trough coming out of the north--which could leave us with too little moisture.

Here is the forecast from Monday

And here is the graphic from this morning's run:
Spot the differences? Much more energy offshore (stronger trough, stronger flow) in the latest run and that makes all the difference. This subtle shift results in most of the precipitation and falling pressure offshore. There could be a few showers reaching the western lowlands, but they will be scattered and only higher hills have a chance of getting some snow showers. Better chance for light snow on the coast.

As the trough moves offshore and south of us the skies will clear and the second part of Friday and Saturday should be dry. All kinds of interesting possibilities for Sunday...(yes even snow)...but that will await another blog.

We do have relatively cool air over us now and there will be some convective showers...particularly along the coast. (see satellite picture) Strong showers can bring the snow level down...even to the ground... today. In fact, Hoquiam is reporting light snow now! So don't be surprised if some locations get a snow shower today. You can see how the air became less stable during the day with from the following video. We had cold air aloft and then as the surface heated, the rate of change of temperature with height increased and the atmosphere destabilized, producing increasingly strong cumulus cells (click on picture)

By the way, here is a table showing where we are snow-wise in the mountains:

The higher volcanic peaks are doing ok (Timberline, Mt. Baker, Paradise), but the lower passes, especially in the middle Cascades are way below normal. Not the bountiful snow of a typical La Nina year...but it is not over yet. California is picking up plenty of mountain snow right now, which is very good for their water situation this summer.

PS: Just a reminder...I will be giving a dinner-time talk at Ivar's Mukilteo Landing Restaurant at 7 PM on Wednesday Feb 23rd. The subject: the strong westerly wind surges that push down the Strait with winds approaching hurricane strength. One destroyed the restaurant in 2003. Another half-destroyed the WS Ferry Elwha in 1990. Anyway, the restaurant was rebuilt with a weather theme and they just put up a cam and weather station. If interested, you should make a reservation (see information on the right side of this blog).

Newsflash: For this gathering the bartender has come up with an exciting new drink: the STRAIT SURGE. This may be the first meteorological phenomenon with its own drink. History will be made.

The destruction of the Mukileto Landing Restaurant will be the theme of this talk. Trying to get Gordon Lightfoot to pen a song.


  1. Seems like the theme this winter.

    The EURO and GFS are at odds with this wkends trough. I'm putting faith in the less reliable.

    These troughs are kinda boring this time of year. But come April and May, I like the instability they bring.

  2. What was up with the winter of 1977?

  3. Not surprising in the slightest, not with this pathetic winter. But don't worry, I'm sure the cold and wet will show up just in time to ruin a second Spring in a row.

    There's a been a lot of talk about how La Nina does not guarantee snow and cold. I understand that.

    Yet how often does El Nino fail to deliver its warmth? Last year I took it to the bank we'd have a lame winter and it delivered. I wonder, statistically speaking, how often La Nina fails vs. El Nino?

  4. Shocking! It's been this way all year. "Snow!" "Wait, belay that, no snow, sorry."

    La Nina. La Blahna.

  5. Getting great snow in Ellensburg right now :-)

  6. What happened in 1977 that left us with virtually NO snow in any of the mountains?

  7. We had snow in SW Washington this morning. From about 7:30 to 10:30- big fat fluffy wet flakes. It was beautiful- but not treacherous driving because it just didn't stick on the roads.
    After that we had rain, sunbreak, rain, hail, sunbreak, rain.
    It was a fun day!

  8. Cliff,
    Snowing pretty hard in Tacoma right now. Quickly covering the grass and car windows. I refuse to get excited...wait, I think posting is a sign of exciment.

  9. Lots of snow showers interspersed with sun breaks in the hills around Orting.

  10. Super,
    The winter 2006-2007 was an el nino winter.
    we had record flooding, several widespread snowstorms, and some windstorms.

    I think that qualifies as an El nino fail

  11. The winter of 1977 had a very persistant high amplitude ridge off or over the west coast. It extended way up into Alaska, effectively blocking westher systems. It was dry.

  12. Reading about all of this makes me smile as i am sitting in Holualoa Hawaii enjoying 80 degree weather. I think we chose a great time to be away.

  13. I am thinking of a new policy whereby anyone emailing from Hawaii and mocking us for being stuck in cold and wet will NOT be allowed to place comments on this blog. ...cliff

  14. DR Mass,

    Why does the National Weather Service overstate the chances of snow versus mesoscale analysis on the U W Atmospheric Sciences web site?

  15. With apologies to Mr Lightfoot (and folk rockers everywhere) ...

    The legend lives on from the Skagit on down
    Of the sea lake they call Gitche Gumee
    The Sound, it is said, never gives up her dead
    When the skies of October turn gloomy.

    With a load of hot chips - 26,000 tons more
    Than the Ivar's Rest'rant weighed empty
    That good fish and true was a bone to be chewed
    When the gales of October came early

    The dive was the pride of the Western side
    Sitting back from some mill in Edmonds
    As the big caf├ęs go it was bigger than most
    With a crew and the Captain well seasoned.

    Concluding some terms with a couple of spud firms
    When they left fully loaded for Edmonds
    And later that night when the dessert bell rang
    Could it be the North Wind they'd been feeling.

    The wind in the wires made a tattletale sound
    And a wave broke over the railing
    And every man knew, as the Captain did, too,
    T'was the witch of October come stealing.

    The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
    When the gales of October came slashing
    When afternoon came it was freezing rain
    In the face of a hurricane West Wind

    When supper time came the old cook came on deck
    Saying fellows it's too rough to feed ya
    At 7PM a main hatchway caved in
    He said fellas it's been good to know ya.

    The Captain wired in he had water coming in
    And the good dive and crew was in peril
    And later that night when his lights went out of sight
    Came the wreck of the Ivar's Rest'rant.

    Does anyone know where the love of God goes
    When the waves turn the minutes to hours
    The searchers all say they'd have made Elliott Bay
    If they'd put fifteen more miles behind her.

    They might have split up or they might have capsized
    They may have broke deep and took water
    And all that remains is the faces and the names
    Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

    Puget Sound rolls, San Juan's sing
    In the ruins of her warm water mansion
    Mukeltio steams like a young man's dreams,
    The islands and bays are for sportsmen.

  16. No lowland snow makes it easier to get up to skiing on the clear Saturday we have forecast!

    I like the presentation of this snow data better than some others I've seen. It's very easy to identify the passes.

  17. snowing in parts of Vancouver, BC today.

  18. Looks like the coast may get 1-2 inches. Thinking of driving out that way tonight to meet it, but we'll see. That band of moisture just knicks the coast. Placement is everything :) Missed you in PT. Looking for other lectures over in the Kitsap area.

  19. Okay, my mouth is turned down after seeing the CPC long-range forecast for March-April-May. That's it. I'm planning a Cali spring break.

  20. How about whoever thinks that we are "stuck" in cold and wet conditions, and doesn't want to be here for it, all just move to Hawaii, and let those of us who like it enjoy it without complaints??


  21. Intense squalls of sleet in Bellevue today at 4 pm. Exciting and shimmeringly beautiful in the afternoon sun.

  22. wha hauppened to the house bill, did it finally die?

  23. Rep. Santos appears to have killed the bill by denying it a hearing. Thus, she prevented a vote of our representatives on this important matter.

    As a result, we will now throw away our new state math standards for inferior ones and spend tens of millions of dollars to do so. Teachers, who were just trained on our new standards, will have to learn new ones.

    A bad outcome for our state and our kids...cliff

  24. Very strong agreement among the various models and ensembles regarding the strong cold trough next week. This could get a little interesting before the dry Fraser outflow takes over.

  25. For the person always complaining whenever it is sunny and telling us to move if we don't like the weather, we don't have to jump up and down all the time to enjoy living here. And we are on this blog for discourse on weather and other issues. Some of us get sick of the cold without any payoff (such as lowland snow), some of us are just over winter...and this is probably because it's February and we'd like to get planting and get on with spring and travel plans. Spring Fever. Totally normal, and no need to move to Hawaii at all.

  26. Big White Ball - No need to move, but just don't complain when some of us finally get weather we've waited a long time for. We're waiting for an actual winter that we haven't had yet, for example.

  27. In New Orleans they serve a drink called the Hurricane. I think that qualifies as a meteorological phenomenon with a drink named after it.


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