August 22, 2011

The New Coastal Radar Delivers!

A major change in weather is now occurring, with marine air pushing into western Washington, displacing the warmth of yesterday.   A front is approaching the coast, but will it rain?  How strong is the front?  Now we know--because of the new coastal radar.

This morning, Brad Colman, Meteorologist in Charge of the National Weather Service Seattle office, kindly sent me this image at 7:17 AM (they are getting the radar in real-time on many days):

 You can see a strong front offshore, stretching to beyond the Oregon border (yellow and red are heavy rain).   Here is an image two hours later (Courtesy of Kirby Cook, Science and Operations Officer, NWS, Seattle):

 This is a very strong front for this time of the year! The reds are heavy rain.  The northern part of the northern WA coast is getting hammered.  At 10 AM, the new radars estimate of precipitation at Quillayute was .64 inches, actual was .60 inches....very good!

Here is the image from the Camano Island radar:

It can't see the front beyond the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca...the parts that will hit Seattle and south--because of blockage of the Olympic and distance.  But the new radar shows clearly the strength of the front extending out over the ocean...marvelous.

Or how about the Portland radar?  If you believed it, you would think that there were only a few sprinkles out there.

The winds are really picking up now, with some places getting sustained winds over 20 kts.  Here is the latest ferry weather winds.  Sustained 25 knots in the central Sound--and gusts would be higher.

The Seattle profiler at Sand Point, which shows winds above the surface, clearly indicates the strong southerly winds that have pushed in aloft....a very different day.  Temperatures aloft have declined by about 10C (18F).

The coastal radar, observations on ferries, the profiler...twenty years ago we didn't have any of them.  And we didn't have high resolution numerical models.   Progress is being made.

This event is associated with an unusually strong summer atmospheric river of moisture.  Let me show you an image of the integrated moisture in the vertical:

See that yellow and red filament heading right towards us?  That is the atmospheric river, and it has our name on it.  Much of the region should see significant rain, particularly those on the SW sides of regional terrain.  Take a look at the 24-h total rainfall predicted by the UW WRF modeling systems for the 24 hours ending 5 AM Tuesday.  1-2 inches on the windward slopes and 2-5 inches on the SW side of Vancouver Island.   This is heavy stuff for August.


  1. Professor Mass,

    Will this new radar's images be accessible from say (or another site) any time soon?

    Thank you.

  2. Looks like Canada should put another radar on northern Vancouver Island. Do you know if there are any plans in the works?

  3. It looks like we really could use another doppler radar on northern Vancouver Island. Do you know if Environment Canada has any plans in the works?

  4. Hah! I headed over here to yell "Radar, radar, look at the radar!" on whatever the latest comment thread was.

    Natch, Cliff is there already...

  5. Hey Cliff, is there a public site where we can see the test returns from the new doppler?


  6. Any plans to ultimately incorporate it into the UW radar page?

  7. Many thanks to Sen. Cantwell and Murray for pushing for this. Clearly a good example of tax dollars well spent.

    Amazing that we are just now getting this. Better late than never, I guess, but I can't help wondering why it took so long when these types of radars have been common on the East Coast for many, many years.

  8. I really hope the forecasters down here in Portland will get to use the new radar images as well when it is full online. Your picture of the Portland radar shows one of the worst forecasting challenges we face in the Willamette Valley, too many darn mountains.

  9. I love the new coastal weather radar!

  10. Wow. This will be such an improvement for those of us on the farthest southern reaches of the Salish Sea! We mostly never saw weather coming until it arrived around the end of the olympics. Now we can see the future!
    Thanks NWS and associated agencies.

  11. This is fantastic... I'm so glad that this money (a trivial amount compared to what we're spending on the military every second) was well spent. It's literally going to save lives, perhaps even this winter. Good stuff.

  12. Cliff,
    I get the feeling that you've been hankering for a real storm to highlight this new radar. You probably thought you'd have to wait until next month at least. But no. It's headed right for us.

  13. Hot Damn! This is better than Christmas! Storm + new radar= seriously happy.

  14. Looks like an early end to summer.

  15. If Camano Island is KATX, what is the station ID for the coastal radar? Thanks

  16. @DaveOnFidalgo -

    The new radar station is KGLX

  17. Radar obs are nice, but a casual glance at the afternoon sky in Portland today showed lots of AC-SL over the peaks, and those "stacks of pancakes" are indicative of strong laminar flow aloft, usually a reliable precursor to an approaching cold front around here.

  18. @DaveOnFidalgo and @Hair Bob

    The ICAO ID for the Langley Hill site is KLGX:


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