May 21, 2011

June Gloom and KUOW Weekday

Lets talk about weather first....

During late May and much of June low clouds tend to dominate the western lowands of Washington and the nearby offshore waters. Know as "June Gloom" in many circles, such persistent low cloudiness is a very typical feature of our climate. June is simply not a great month here and there are reasons for that.

Case in point. Today.

Yesterday was very nice, with the maximum temperature at Sea-Tac getting to 70F--the first time this season. We almost didn't make it, with high clouds from an approaching front slowing the temperature rise during the afternoon. If we didn't get to 70F it is almost certain we would have secured the record for the latest day ever to reach 70F at Sea Tac (the record is May 23rd).

A front went through last night and morning and in its wake we were left with lots of low clouds--stratus and stratocumulus--that held in pretty much all day. (see satellite picture today)

So why so many low clouds during the late spring?

There are several reasons. First, the air behind fronts are much colder earlier in the season and that causes the air to be much more unstable after frontal passage. With cold air above the relatively warm water there is a large change in temperature with height and the atmosphere breaks out into convection---think of your hot cereal pot. The result is showers and sunbreaks!

But there are other reasons. During spring and early summer high pressure--the east Pacific high--is building into our region and the high is associated with sinking motion that decreases toward the surface. Such sinking tends to stabilize the atmosphere, reducing mixing. Thus the ocean is able to inject a lot of moisture into the lower atmosphere that is not mixing out. What does that give you? Low clouds.

Finally, during late spring and summer the continents surround the Pacific warm up relative to the ocean, which heats very, very slowly. With warm continental air moving over the cold water, you have a very stable situation and the warm air gets cooled to its dew point by the cold ocean...the got it...low clouds.

Want to know something REALLY depressing. According to the regional climate simulations being done by my group and others at the UW, global warming will bring MORE low clouds during the spring around here. For example, here is the percent change in low clouds during March, April, and May between the late 1990s and 2090s from one of these simulations. Blue means more low clouds!Why? The simulations suggest a stronger east Pacific high with global warming (more sinking and stable air at low levels) and a warmer continent (which causes the pressure to fall relative to the ocean, and thus more onshore flow).

We just can't win! But don't worry--the rest of the summers will get much warmer, if these simulations are correct.

Finally, let me comment a bit on the whole flap about me be kicked off KUOW Weekday.

Update (some kind folks have created an online petition asking KUOW to reconsider: found here: )

First, let me say I am stunned by the reaction and the many messages of support. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your words. I received over 400 email messages and over 250 comments on my blog, and was greatly encouraged by the Facebook page, which received hundreds of comments. The KUOW Facebook page was overwhelmed . I am still hoping to hear from the KUOW folks, but if not, I have received offers of a regular spot on a few local radio and TV stations. And, of course, there is my blog and the podcast that I plan to start.

This whole situation is really so silly and unnecessary. Let me tell you a little more than has been in the media or my previous blog post. The truth is that I had already caved into most of Katy's and Steve's demands. In our meeting a few years ago over this issue they told me if I talked about math education another time, they would take me off the air. I told them I thought they were completely wrong and were ill-serving KUOW listeners, but I would pull back from discussing math topics. And since that time I HAVE NOT talked about math as all of you know. I never talked about my participation in the lawsuit against Seattle Public Schools about bad math textbooks. I never talked about the State deciding to take on Common Core math standards during this legislative session. I gave in to them because I thought it was more important to serve the KUOW listener community than to fight it out with them. I talked about math on my blog and on the many times I have been invited to talk on other radio stations (e.g., KOMO radio).

So they really got what they wanted. What got me into trouble, what really ended my weather segment, was ONE situation a few weeks ago, where I defended the UW admission's policy. Yes, you got this right-- I was ejected from the UW-owned public radio station for defending the UW. Pretty amazing. The Seattle Times had published a very deceptive article and the 10 AM Week in Review group on Weekday pontificated about it the previous week, continuing to provide the listeners with non-factual information. I had direct knowledge of the facts and had confirmed them with the Dean of Admissions. I would have thought Steve would have thanked me for insuring KUOW listeners were not ill-informed. But that is not what happened. He canceled my next segment and his aide Katy then sent me the threatening ultimatum. I responded very carefully, but told them I could not guarantee NEVER to go off the narrow topic of weather. And for that I was canned. It really appears to me the concern was never about the listeners, the effects of losing my weather segment, or the importance of insuring that listeners get the best possible information. It seemed to be about something else.

The online description of KUOW's weekday states that it is
"call–in, talk show format invites listeners to converse with activists, politicians and practical thinkers on relevant issues and ideas of the day" How is this inconsistent with my talking about math and science education or UW admissions, which are certainly some of the most relevant issues of the day? Why did they allow me to do so for a decade and then change their minds? Why did they not trust their audience to consider the experiences of a long-term university educator? Why is Weekday so dominated by authors pushing their books and so little real-discussion of local issues?

During the past year, the amount of time for the weather segment has progressively dropped, and increasingly they run out of time in the first hour and push me to the second, so that listeners are uncertain when I will talk. Each week I provided Steve with a list of questions to ask me and frequently that list is not used. There has to be a better way to ensure listeners have a more consistent experience.

I hope the program can evolve, and the strong reaction of the listeners shows that many hope that program becomes a more open forum for community discussion. I believe in public radio and I believe in the potential of programs like Weekday. There is much to learn from the hundreds of comments of Weekday listeners found on the Facebook sites. Perhaps the KUOW folks are willing to talk this through with me and find some kind of compromise approach so I can come back. I hope so. But if not, I will find another, more open venue and tolerant environment, for talking about the whys behind the weather and some of the key issues of science and math education.

PS: I did not suggest or encourage the poll on the Stranger Slog (only 8 % wanted me fired) or the Fire Steve Scher Facebook site. I am NOT suggesting anyone should be terminated. One termination is enough for this month.


  1. Dr Mass and fans:

    We are working on formulating a petition to KUOW's Board of Directors, asking them to reinstate you, apologize, and investigate your termination from Weekday. The petition will be posted on the support facebook page tomorrow so people can sign it:!/pages/Put-Cliff-Mass-back-on-KUOW/149155005153152

  2. Good luck with whatever you end up doing. Of course I hope you and KUOW can work it out. But if not, I'll be listening to whatever you do next.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Here here, Eva!

  5. I look forward to hearing your podcast and/or reports on-air very soon. I am quite disappointed in KUOW's handling of this issue and have let them know this.

    On behalf of my family, especially my son who graduated from a local high school last year, thank you for advocating for sensible and solid math standards in Washington State. Education reform moves at glacial speed and it is discouraging that some districts---as well as our state---seem to be ignoring the warning signs and concerns of parents, higher education, etc.

    Good luck Mr. Mass. I hope many opportunities arise out of this situation for you, and that KUOW might be responsive and offer more forums for local issues. Imagine if they offered a weekly or monthly look at educational matters in Washington, giving this important issue the same weight that they give to things like gardening, authors, politicians. That'll be a great day for our community.

  6. Cliff, we are going to follow you WHEREVER you go. As a dual master's degree student, a teacher, and a private tutor of MANY public school students, I can say that your sentiments are well founded. May the wind always be at your back!

  7. It is really sad that the local public radio station is less tolerant of opposing views than the commercial stations like KOMO. I hope you can find a way to stay on the air. I really enjoyed your Friday segments. I hope you find a place that can respect your opinions.

    Mark Houston

  8. My first math class at the U.W. was Calculus 126 - a prerequisite for many of the Atmospheric Science classes. From a current syllabus - "... cover plane and 3D curves, vectors, partial derivatives, multiple integrals, and Taylor polynomials and series."

    I was 35 and it was the spring of '95 and I bombed it and I took it again. Once I had taken Math 307 & 308 & 324 at the U (Differential Equations, Linear Algebra & Multivariable Calculus) something significant changed for me - when I was walking to classes in the different science buildings, I actually had an inkling of a clue of what the science course descriptions & class offerings were talking about - I wish EVERYONE had that experience.

    A U.W. math prof told me in a random conversation that it typically took students a year to figure out how to study to survive to do well there.

    While I haven't a clue how to do what the Applied Math Dept. Atmospheric Science people are doing with mathematical modeling, I could stumble into some kind of rudimentary understandings, given my math background, with enough work and time and time and work. I wish I had another life!

    Sadly, I honestly believe these people stifling you are afraid of you because they haven't a clue what you're talking about when it comes to just how unacceptable it is for kids, for citizens, for any of us, to be deprived of access to this cool stuff because they spent their k-12 years with garbage math.

    The ignorant butterfly effect?

    Bob Murphy

  9. I look forward to signing the petition but am afraid that they are so arrogant in their ways that they will choose to ignore us all. Too bad it is not pledge week so everyone could call in and make a pledge conditional on your reinstatement.

    It brings to mind they way they threw Ken Vincent under the bus.

  10. As a huge fan I have been a faithful listener every Friday for years. I was listening to the show a couple of weeks ago when you provided your perspective about the UW admission process and was appalled at how Steve treated you. As the only person on the show with direct experience in the process should have been recognized as an asset by the KUOW team. I was truly annoyed at the time. Now I'm just plain outraged. I have written to KUOW and I do hope that they reconsider. Sadly, I'm guessing that they won't -- which is tragic. I hope you are comforted to know that me and all of your other faithful fans will follow you wherever you go. And, whether you end up back on KUOW (which is really where you belong!), or begin offering an independent podcast, or go to another station all together, I look forward to being able to hear you speak about weather or any other topic about which you feel passionate. Thanks for all that you contribute to Seattle. We're lucky to have you!

  11. I'm hoping that you and Dick Stein, from KPLU, can get together for a regular weather spot. That would be fun!

  12. Mr. Mass, I look forward to listening to you on a more deserving station, Please let us all know where you land.

    You're about the last thing that brought me into listening to that other station, whatever it was. I've already forgotten the call letters.

    Chris Bingham

  13. Dr Mass - I look forward to listening to at whatever more deserving station that you land.

    I've already forgotten the call letters of that other one.

    Best to you and yours!

    Chris Bingham

  14. I would like to ask you to consider starting a separate blog or some how participate in an advocacy group in regards to math and science education in Seattle and Washington state.

    This is a very important issue and many people have expressed support for your advocacy on the "Put Cliff Mass back on KUOW" Facebook site. The publicity generated by this ridiculous situation puts you in an even better position to speak on and advocate for better math and science education. It would be nice if something good could come out of this whole ordeal.

  15. I had never heard the term "June Gloom" in Seattle, I first heard it upon vacationing in San Diego in a cold and cloudy June. Is this a term used often in Seattle, or is it a newer term? I am assuming it is a very similar effect in San Diego as to that which is occurring in Seattle?

    Maybe the San Diego "June Gloom" is more similar to the weather effects on the Washington state coast? Is Seattle's gloom more complex (as most Seattle weather is) because the cold air is coming off the Olympics and the Puget Sound rather than the ocean?

  16. When I was in eighth grade back in the early 70’s in the small community of Odessa, Washington, the high school counselor met with each student on a one-on-one basis. He asked what my career choice would be. Without hesitation I chose meteorology. My counselor told me it would be all math and physics. Going into my high school years we made sure I had all the math and science courses offered.

    Shortly after I successfully obtained my degree in Atmospheric Sciences from the UW, I had an encounter with someone who attended a much larger high school. They wanted to go into oceanography, but no one told them it would be math and physics and so they were unprepared and had to choose a different career.

    Cliff, due to your very public efforts at getting the word out on the current math situation and its role in atmospheric sciences, many parents will be able to make sure their children will do what it takes to get a good grounding in math if they want to pursue a career in atmospheric sciences or any other scientific field. That is a priceless gift you have given the community.

    To be silenced for that is a travesty.

    David Frick

  17. Onward and upward, Mr. Mass.
    Keep doing the good work, and be careful, you might end up on the air everyday!
    Canned author interviews are the easy way out. KUOW management has taken that road, with Steve and Katy. A huge mistake, as you mention. No need for you to do it.
    Also, don't get all tied up on producing your own podcast.. You are not a broadcaster.. You are a Scientist and Professor..

  18. This comment is not about who is right or wrong it is about the why it happened when it did. It is not a criticism of anyone.

    Because the management at the radio station no doubt read your blog and absorbed what you were saying about math they still "hear" it anytime they see you in the station.

    So because they know you are currently outspoken in other media about a subject they don't want to hear on the station they are scared that what you are thinking (math books) will spill over and come out on air.

    The scale tipped when you spoke on another subject that was a difficult one for them. Because it was about education the math recording from the blog immediately played in their brains along with the other subject. Brains are funny things, they hear voices that are not audible.

    Knowing what triggers trip wires does not change what happened and it does mean you have to change your behavior.

  19. Article I, Section 5 of the Washington State Constitution, which is absolutely binding on the University of Washington, states as follows: "SECTION 5 FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Every person may freely speak, write and publish on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right." If what you say is true, it is against the state constitution for the UW to either directly, or by frowning at the KUOW management, stop you from speaking freely on the UW admissions issue--which was not something you had agreed not to discuss, unlike the math education controversy. It's not just poor journalism, it's against the express words of the state constitution. May I suggest a talk with the ACLU of Washington?

  20. I have already expressed my displeasure with kuow with the email links you provided.

  21. I have to agree with KUOW on this. You were hired to discuss the weather, not the woeful state of math education in this state. I teach high school chemistry so am intimately familiar with students' inability to problem solve. But that's my job-to help them learn how to apply the math they know. And your job on KUOW was to report on atmospheric science. You can do whatever you want on your blog and if I don't want to read it, I don't have to.

  22. But aren't you playing kind of a silly game by posting that poll graphic at the end? You are saying that in no way did you suggest Steve's firing, but you are going to show us how others are. Thereby putting your weight behind it.

    I have long enjoyed your radio segment, and subscribe to your blog- I find your explanations of the complexity of weather to be very clear and interesting.

    I will continue to learn from you, but as a respected academic and public personality, I hope you maintain high standards in your blog, and not engage in parting shots like this one. It's completely unnecessary.

  23. How obtuse of Weekday. I wrote an email expressing my thoughts about this actoin. Time for your own podcast!

  24. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  25. The petition to put Cliff back onto KUOW can be found here:

  26. I gave up on KUOW and NPR years ago. The "he said/she said" style of journalism championed by public radio promotes false equivalencies. It is also incredibly boring.

    If I never again hear the voice of Cokie Roberts, Mara Liasson, or Steve Scher it will be a small blessing.

    I encourage everyone to stop supporting KUOW. If you must support NPR, take advantage of opportunities to support the shows you like directly.

    This American Life, for example, takes donations directly on its website.

    Doing this means that the money goes directly to the shows you like, as opposed to going to the NPR and KUOW general funds where the money disappears into the salaries of some of the least interesting and informative "journalists" in American media.

  27. You guys are hilarious...from quoting the WA State constitution to comparing this to Juan Williams(which died out BTW)and who was fired for cause, to claiming some posters are " School Board puppets" and should teach in China. Weirdorama. I can only think of Ayn Rand and her disciples for comparability. Don't you think KUOW watches these comments along the emails which must be interesting to read.

    All you had to say is, please reinstate Cliff Mass. That's it. This is not how someone plays the game to win politically, it's a crap shoot.

  28. I signed the petition. Steve Scher's show is a running joke at our house: warning, KUOW is going to be inanely hosted for the next two hours! the guests are the only bright spot, particularly Cliff.

  29. No one listens to KUOW to hear Steve Scher or Katy Sewall. They're the "hired help" who introduce the "talent," ie Cliff Mass. Professor Mass has educated thousands of us about NW weather, and as a bonus has provided an accurate, informed, and refreshing assessment of crucial issues facing math & science education. Cliff is correct of course about the "dumbing down" of math education, just as he is correct about the UW admissions policies. Your station and your listeners have been fortunate to have such an experienced "voice." Now is your chance to show that you have an once of sense and GET CLIFF BACK.

  30. I don't listen to Weekday live, I listen to on-demand in the evening. When I heard their Friday news discussion the week the admissions article rand in The Seattle Times I was a little dismayed.

    In 2002 I was accepted into the UW, after 5 years I graduated with only $14,000 in student loans.

    -Both my parents WA born and raised.
    -Mother's family is PNW Native - Lummi
    -I was a first generation student - first one in entire family to go to college
    -From a poor single parent family, spent most of my k-12 on free/reduced lunch.
    -My high school GPA was only 2.97, well below the average for accepted freshman.
    -My SAT was only 1100, again below average.

    The UW needs to accept out of state students at the higher tuition to subsidize students like me. One time $500 of my financial aid was labeled as Tuition Exempt.

  31. Cliff--

    I teach at PLU and know some of the folks at KPLU. I am sure they would be happy to talk with you--and I am sure you would not get the kind of treatment you have from KUOW.

    I am with you on the math business. I am one of those would-be meteorologists for whom calculus was a serious barrier.

  32. Cliff,
    I am a huge fan of yours and feel truly grateful that you share your weather knowledge. I work as a gardener and not only does your blog help me plan my work week, but it also makes me a better gardener. Reading your blog is part of how I stay current in my knowledge of science.

    AND I love that you share your opinions regarding the math education in our state. We have three daughters in the public school system, and they all have had teachers who echo your sentiments. Thankfully they are getting a good math education because of teachers who go beyond the curriculum.

    My husband and I were also very glad to read your post regarding the UW's position on accepting more out of state students. Your thoughtful, informed post answered many of our questions and cleared up a lot of misinformation for us.

    I will continue to read ALL of your posts, in whatever form you are published. Having been a long time reader, I felt it was time you heard me say Thank you!!

  33. There is one thing I have liked about KUOW on Friday: the weather segment.

    The gab-fest with the experts used to be tremendous, but for a long while has been vacuous at best.

    What's past is past. Just go where you're wanted. Don't return to a bad situation.

    Office politics never get better, and you don't need to be part of theirs.

  34. Thank you for sticking to your guns. As a special education graduate student at UWT, I very clearly understand how important the work is that you and others do to bring good math materials to students.

  35. Cliff,

    Good luck! I have alwas enjoyed your insight since you gave the "annual snow report forecast" for SEA-TAC airport some tears ago...

  36. Dear Cliff,

    I have enjoyed your segment on KUOW for many years. In addition, I am strongly in agreement with your views regarding math education and the debate over certain math texts in the schools.

    But, I am sorry to say, I agree with the station's producers in this case. While your background discussions of climate and weather information were an excellent expansion on the topic, I feel that they were in the right to ask you to NOT discuss certain controversial aspects. It's not as if this were dropped on you without prior warning, either.

    Perhaps you could be brought on to discuss your other concerns in a different segment. As for the comparison to Rick Steves, I don't feel it applies. If he were doing a regular segment that is focused on travel, yet occasionally veered off to talk about marijuana legislation around the world and how he felt the U.S. should follow suit, I think a similar restriction would be in place.

    Keep the weather segment more closely focused - discuss perceived flaws and personal opinions about the educational system at a different point ... or in your fine blog.

  37. Cliff, KUOW has for a while now gone in directions that show there is turmoil and a lack of common sense in that building. Notice how they do things like preempt the brilliant morning edition music in exchange for telling us what we will hear a couple of minutes later. It's unheard of that an npr station would rid themselves of such a brand defining iconic sound that people rely on to emphasize the time of day. it's basic "over thinking," and kuow is brilliant at that. (as is Seattle in general, ie transportation vote and revote, the tunnel, etc)

    I recommend you do what i did, move to NWPR. You'd have more exposure, and be with a more professional organization. I look forward to hearing you in the future.

  38. Cliff, sorry to hear about the ousting from the show at that radio station. One idea I had is that you are looking for ways to raise money for supporting efforts at UW Atm. Sci., and perhaps this is an opportunity, by accepting vetted 15 second advertising spots to be inserted at the front of a podcast? As much as I hate those ads when I see/hear them on places like, I do think they do serve a useful purpose. Just a thought.

  39. I too think Cliff Mass should continue on KUOW and should be able to talk about other issues besides the weather. I am sorry this has turned into such a fight and that people are making it personal. I think Steve Scher is an excellent interviewer. He is genuinely curious and makes the interview a conversation. I only miss Weekday when work prevents me from listening. I hope this situation can be resolved soon and not continue because it is getting ugly.

  40. Class response. Thank you for the additional information.

  41. Hi Cliff! I'm a big fan of your blog (I started reading this winter) and I wish you all the luck and hope that you keep blogging!

  42. I wish you would have performed the job you were hired for, and only that - to discuss the weather. If you would have followed the bounds Steve clearly set for your segment we would still be able to enjoy your commentary more. Do you accept no wrong-doing in this?

  43. The real problem, I think, is the arrogance of Steve Scher and the others at KUOW. Scher shows no intellectual humility at all, which is a sure sign of a shallow intellect. As some of the other posts said, such a person is intimidated by those with greater mental horsepower (i.e. Cliff Mass).

  44. Cliff: I have sent the following email to the KUOW folks:

    Mr. Wayne Roth
    KUOW President and CEO

    Dear Mr. Roth,

    Along with many other KUOW listeners, I have long enjoyed Cliff Mass's segments in your programming schedule. Dr. Mass is a member of our community who combines excellence in Atmospheric Science with a passion for demystifying the weather patterns of our area in terms understandable to the average person. He also takes seriously the need to arrest the dumbing down of our society with regard to math and science. Whatever events have led up to this current controversy, it would be a major loss if KUOW dropped Dr. Mass from its programming schedule.

    It seems to me that persons of good faith closest to this matter could reach an amicable agreement to allow Dr.Mass to continue his regular appearances on KUOW without drawing out these events any further.


    Art Davidson

  45. Dr. Mass,

    I feel so sorry that you are being treated so badly. I feel that you have been treated terribly unfairly and that the KUOW management is treating its listeners like we have no critical thinking skills. I used to respect these people and now I just feel like they are behaving like terrible human beings. I am just so sorry.

    I have put together a group of students (I am a JD/MBA candidate with a research interest in professional ethics) and we are working on a letter outlining our concerns about the larger ethical and professional concerns that this whole debacle has raised. I wish I could do something that could actually help you, but I am afraid this is all I can do.

    I have such a strong passion for professional ethics because situations like yours make me terribly angry and sad. Please know that you are highly respected by so many people for your integrity and for everything that makes you such a "local treasure".

    May I be so presumptuous as to suggest that you seek out allies to help you through this ridiculous transition? I truly hope that something better comes along for you, because you deserve it and the many people who hunger for scientific knowledge deserve to have the opportunity to learn from you. A few people who act completely unprofessionally should not be able to get in the way of such a good thing.

  46. Dr. Mass,

    I have over the years very much enjoyed learning about northwest weather from your broadcasts on KUOW as well as your blog and lectures. I have started many a weather discussion with the words, "Cliff says…”

    However, I happen to think that Steve Scher is one of the best interviewers on radio and that KUOW is one of the best stations on radio; public or private. We in Seattle are lucky that Steve hasn’t been snapped up by NPR. I tend to agree that using your weekend forecast/weather education time on weekday as a time to speak out on the UW school of education, math standards and the like seems like a mis-use of that time as there is no one from UW Education or math standards making bodies on at the same time.

    I find KUOW to be really good at trying to air all sides of a question and having all sides present at the table when the issues are discussed is essential doing that. If you are given a chance to air these other views when you have the floor for your weather spot KUOW would hardly be airing a fair debate. I would support weekday doing a program on math standards and educational standards with representatives of all views, perhaps you as well.

    In the mean time I’ll look forward to your blog and lectures and will miss you on KUOW, but I would suggest moving on, if you don’t want to hold your tongue on other issues and they don’t want you to talk about other issues, you may have to agree to disagree. I would hate to see KUOW lose funding for all of its great, even, and fair programming because of flap over a 5 minute spot on Friday morning (.05% of their weekly programming, if I’ve done the math correctly).

    Lorrin Smith-Bates


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

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