March 20, 2012

A New View of Seasonal Changes

Doesn't  it seem like the warmth of spring and the comfort of summer takes an eternity to occur here in the Northwest?   (and astronomically, today is the first day of spring by the way).   In this blog, I am going to show you something that is in no meteorological textbook--at least none I know of:  maps of temperatures change between the generally coldest month of winter (usually January) and the beginning of spring (March) and the middle of summer (July).

Does it warm up faster or slower here compared to the rest of the country? 
What states warm up the most? 

All will be revealed here!

First, take a look at March minus January mean temperatures (F), shown both in numbers and colors (thanks to Neal Johnson of the UW for putting together these graphics).
Big range!  Florida and California only warm up by 7 degrees, while the Northwest, the far southwest, and the southeast/Middle Atlantic coasts warm up by around 10F.  But take a look at the upper Midwest:  they warm up by roughly 20F.  But lets face it, they start real cold.   So the bottom line here is the Northwest complainers really don't have much on their side regarding March temperatures.

But what about the temperatures change between January and July?  There we might complain a bit.  The West Coast, downwind of the Pacific, only warms up by about 30-34F, and of course, subtropical Florida warms up the least (24F).  But take a look at the upper Midwest...some states (MN, ND) warm up by 61F!  Can you imagine sixty degrees warmer on average in July than January.  No wonder they have a lot of cracked concrete there.  The northeast U.S. and the central plains warm up by 45-55F---summer really means something in those climes.
The Northwest warms up in those six month about the same as Louisiana and Georgia, which somehow does not make me feel any better.  So get away from the moderating effects of water and head north and you can enjoy a real summer warm-up--but is it worth it?

And now for some good news.  For the first time, in what seems like months, the NWS Climate Prediction Center 8-14 day forecast is not predicting for us to be below normal.

Just normal.  Somehow the huge warm anomaly to our east takes a bit of the pleasure away from our moderating temperatures.  The eastern two-thirds of the U.S. have been extraordinarily warm this winter, while a veneer of cold has hugged the West Coast.  Southern California is going to be getting the brunt of weather systems starting this weekend as the jet moves south of us.  More on that in another blog.

Attention Animal Lovers!   King County and Missing Pet Partners are looking for volunteers for Mission Reunite.  Training will take place on Saturday, March 24, from 1-3 pm at the RASKC Pet Adoption Center in Kent.  For more information, you can go to this website.   As someone who has lost a dog (and still looking!) I cannot exaggerate the importance of such groups.  They are full of some of the most giving, altruistic folks I have met.


  1. Hey Cliff.
    I like the subject. But you could've took WA alone and had similar results like the entire U.S.. Its not really representative to average this state due to its diverse climate regions.

    I don't live in Seattle, but I average some figures for the complainers. In 2008, the average temp between Jan(45.8) to March(53.8) equalling 8 degrees. Since then (2008 to present), the difference between the two months was 4.2 degrees.

    While March hasn't been colder than normal, I think its just a psychological issue people have comparing weather by the seasons, mostly due to having milder winters, spring will always seem cold in the PNW.

  2. My take on it is that, here in Seattle, we have five seasons, and we are now stuck here in Woebegone.


  3. Dr. Mass

    Once again another highly interesting blog. I do agree with smokejumper that this analysis breaking out western and eastern Washington would be especially interesting....

  4. Could you comment on whether the jet stream is moving futher from the mean global locations lately? It seems that the warm East US and cold Europe this year were the result of a jet stream that had larger swings that lasted a long time.

  5. Woke up with upwards 1/3 inch of snow. Almost covers the mown fields. Our south of Chehalis elevation is about 400 feet.

  6. I agree with the other posters that an analysis of Western WA vs Eastern WA is in order. Same goes for coastal OR and CAL versus interior areas.

    The area around the Columbia river between Vantage and Richland warms up very nicely starting this time of year!

  7. Thanks for sharing that volunteer opportunity. I've passed it along to friends in the Kent area. Also, I'm still keeping an eye out for your dog every day, and plan to scour the neighborhood again soon.


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

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