April 02, 2011


A lot of people have been complaining about our weather lately, some even going as far as preparing plaintive videos:

The recent two weeks has been much cooler than normal with few days reaching the normal highs and precipitation several inches above normal (see graphics below)
Portland has had its fifth wettest winter on record and the LATEST on record in getting to 60F. That is really the central problem: as long as we get a few warm spring days it is tolerable...this year they have been few warm intervals.

Sunday should be decent for much of the region with a ridge moving over us temporarily. But then on Monday the configuration changes and we get a feed of very moist air...with the mountains getting several inches. Here is the 24-h predicted rainfall ending 4 AM on Tuesday.

The flow will be relatively westerly and thus the rainshadow will not be over Sequim, but rather east of the Olympics (see graphic)

Such westerly flow should be a heavy snow producer on the western slopes and crest of the Cascades. Amazingly, the snowpack in the central Cascades is still below normal, but the Olympics has seasonal snow totals that far exceed climatological norms.


  1. Cliff,
    I appreciate the occasional nod to the Portland area blog viewers such as myself. Just to let you know we do exist! Thank you.

  2. Cliff,

    Yep, I've been one of the complainers myself. I've lived in Seattle for 27 years, so I should know what to expect of spring by now.

    One interest of mine in recent years has been the field of data visualization. With so much information and data pouring into our lives these days, it is helpful to know how to sort through it. Mostly this is a professional interest, but it also is a curiosity of mine too. Trying to understand the best way to look at information is a challenge to tackle and can be a bit like trying to solve a crossword puzzle.

    To teach myself new ways, I use easily obtainable data, especially if it comes in relatively large data set sizes. Public agencies often publish a lot of information. The Census Bureau is often a good source. State agencies too. So is the National Weather Service.

    I'm clearly no meteorologists or even an amateur weather hobbiest. So a lot of what I assume to be true here and state in the dialog box might be incorrect. I'm just going off the information the NWS provides.

    And the data I plot looks backwards chronologically, where were we. As if sitting on a train facing backwards. Not very useful in looking ahead.

    I've recently plotted several historical weather charts of Seattle (SeaTac) weather data. I only have access to the last five years of data, so my sets only go back to November of 2005. But here are three interesting views of recent weather patterns:

    Five Water Seasons

    Five Year Sky Cover

    Six Marches:

    (don't know if your blog will auto-insert the hyperlinks - you may have to cut & paste here)

    Plotting these charts helps me learn techniques for exploring data in my daily job (an engineer). And it's kind of interesting to do too (like solving that crossword puzzle) when the weather outside sort of stinks.

    David B.

  3. Well, unofficialy, one of my neighbors rain gauges shows that we've had twice as much rain as normal here on Marrowstone since January 1st, and almost three times as much as normal for March. So yes, it's been a bit daunting and depressing.

    The video says it quite well.

    Marrowstone Island

  4. I know I could find this myself but since it sounds like you just looked at the data I'll ask you:
    Is the normality of the cascade snowpack consistent across elevations or are only the lower Snotel sites showing below-normal snowpack?

    The answer to this question has interesting implications to watershed hydrology, climate trend data, and most importantly, skiing conditions!

  5. The Four Seasons of Seattle:

    I'm sure there are more. I am really really tired of the rain.

  6. It's interesting to see at Snoqualmie Pass a DRAMATIC change in snowdepth with elevation (3-5000 ft). Ditto at Baker. Snowlevel has been high all winter. Watch yet another storm roll in this week with 4000+foot snowlevels with heavy snow above that!

  7. Your interesting as always post omitted a crucial detail, Cliff. When can we expect a break from this dreary pattern? Great for the snowpack maybe, great for the human psyche, definitely not.

  8. I'm sometimes put off by the judgmental statements of TV weather folks that automatically assume that clear and sunny is loved and desired by all. Personally, I prefer the rainy weather and have found the last couple weeks to be wonderful. No complaints from me. As far as I'm concerned, we've been having good weather and the last thing I want to see is blue sky. So I wish the TV folks would just give us the facts and keep the judgments as to their reception out of it.


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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