January 04, 2012

Eatonville Heat Wave

This morning, one area of western Washington warmed into the lower 60s, with brisk southerly winds--more like Hawaii with strong trade winds than western Washington in midwinter.

The location? The area around Eatonville (near the SW entrance to Mt. Rainier).  Here is plot of the weather conditions there (time is in GMT, so 1256 is 4:56 AM).  Temperatures were in the 50s overnight and rose to 60F at 5:55AM!  Temperatures help up until 1855 GMT (10:55 AM), after which cooling occurred.  Why so warm?   Hint:  look a the winds.  Winds turned southerly and were strong at the temps rose.

 Take a look at a plot of the observations around 10AM.  There was a whole region of warmth around Eatonville that extended toward Enumclaw and southwestern Tacoma.  At the same time that Eatonville luxuriated at 60F it was only 42F at Renton.  I could make a Renton joke here but will fight the urge.

We can get an idea of the type of air moving into the region by looking at the radiosonde upper air observations at Salem, Oregon--see below.  Strong winds from the southwest and quite warm air aloft (12C,54F) above colder air near the surface.

And what is immediately upstream of Eatonville?  Substantial terrain, reaching 3-4 thousand feet, as show below:

Now we can put it all together.  Strong, warm flow approached the terrain south of Eatonville and then descended toward the town.  Cool air near the surface was swept away and the downsloping air warmed by compression (adiabatic warming is the term in the weather biz).   Turns out that our high resolution models had a good idea of this...here is the 12hr forecast from the super high resolution (4/3 km) UW WRF model:

Theorange/ reddish colors are the warmest.

I should note that both sides of the Cascades have been far warmer than normal lately--with low temperatures close to the usual highs.  Here is the proof for Sea Tac and Spokane:
Temperatures should cool down later this week.  And keep in mind that last January was also mild, but was followed by super cold air in February.

Tonight's Political Commentary

 Senator Rick Santorum, who is now so much in the news for surging in Iowa, is well known to the meteorological community, and not in a good way.  In 2005 he introduced the National Weather Service Duties Act that would have prevented the NWS from providing the public with any weather information when private-sector entities perform the same function commercially.  It appeared he was trying to help a business in his district, Accuweather, gain a huge market.   In September 2005, Santorum criticized the National Weather Service for its evacuation warnings given for Hurricane Katrina, saying they were "insufficient" and said the public suffered "serious consequences" when they fall short of "getting it right.  Just nonsense...the Katrina warnings were the strongest I have ever seen. 

Dog News

My little Cockapoo was AGAIN seen in Mountlake Terrace near an apartment complex (Markland Woods Appt) in the vicinity of 236th SW and Cedar Way.  If you live in the area, keep an look out!


  1. It hit 60 for a few hours in Bellingham as well. Perhaps the Chuckanut Range does the same thing.

  2. I noticed it felt abnormally warm when I left home this morning (in Sumner) as well. Not quite as warm as Eatonville; but it was 54F a little before 8AM.

  3. I complain a lot, but in this winter of ho hum weather, you still provide great observations and bedtime reading. Thanks

    I can't take another two weeks of west coast ridge in tonights GFS. Fortunately the gold standard has something a little different. Im clinging to hope.

  4. Cliff,
    Maybe your pooch doesn't want to be found! He has been a master at not being caught!
    I hope he comes to his senses soon. I'm sure it's tough to have him gone.
    Best in 2012!
    Barbara Barry

  5. Finally a mention about Eatonvilles wierd weather! Not only do we warm up because of the downslope winds, but we also get much higher winds than surrounding areas. Often when the coast and north interior are getting blasted, so are we, and often with as high or higher gusts than what they get. Also, when it's been really cold and snowy and there is a warm up coming, everyone else will get bunches of snow before it finally starts raining. But we almost always start as rain and warm up extremely fast. I love it that you made mention of us! It's frustrating when the media makes such a big deal out of Seattle and surrounding areas getting gusts of 30-40 when we may be getting blasted with gusts of 50-60 or when Seattle gets a few inches of snow and we get dumped on, but they don't even mention it. I'm wondering if we get our own little convergence zone sometimes....In November 2010 we received 22 inches of snow here while everyone else only received an average of about 8 inches. And this year, right before Thanksgiving, we received 6 inches while everyone else recieved a trace to just an inch or 2....I'm not complaining! I love it! Thanks, again, for thinking of us Cliff! :)


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