April 03, 2012

Want Warmer Temperatures? Head to Eastern Washington

Although the region west of the Cascades has been cloudy and wet for many recent days, escape is increasingly possible by driving across the Cascades to eastern Washington.

The seasonal crossover has occurred, meaning that lower elevations of eastern Washington is now dependably warmer than the western side of the Cascades.  During the midwinter, eastern WA is colder than the west side--where the influence of the temperate Pacific Ocean keeps temperatures mild.  But as the sun becomes stronger and eastern Washington loses the mid-winter murk of low clouds, east-side folks enjoy a warmer climate.  Here is  a plot to illustrate, one that shows average monthly temps for Sea-Tac and Richland, WA.  Crossover by March and by now now eastern WA has a decided warm edge.

Consider the average max temperatures for the past month, a period that has been colder than normal.  The warmest temperatures are clearly over eastern WA and NE Oregon (reds).  Tri-cities are particularly toasty.

Here are latest forecasts for the next ten days from the Weather Channel for Seattle and Richland; certainly Richland is far drier and warmer.

Seattle Forecast
Richland Foecast
So heading to eastern WA is good escape from wet and cold, but you got to do this in a meteorologically wise way.   Crossing the mountains on I90, the initial locations might be sunnier (Cle Elum to Ellensburg), but they have a problem--wind.  And the wind is particularly strong during the spring when western Washington is cool and eastern Washington is warm.  Suncadia resort in Cle Elum, might as well be called Windcadia during this period---and if you want some amusement watch folks play golf there when the winds are blowing.   Heading down toward Ellensburg, the winds get worse...that is why all the wind turbines are there.  You see wind turbines, keep on driving.  The center of the warm/dry conditions stretch from Vantage/Quincy down to the Tri-Cities.   Not as good over the far eastern and northeastern portions of the state.

Keep going past Ellensburg and the ridge east of town and descend down to Vantage....a very warm, dry spot that is often not in the winds.  (If it is in this winds, go north or south to get out of it).  Take a hike around Gingko Petrified Wood park...lots of fun.
Gingko Petrified Wood Park
 Or drive up to Quincy and visit Cave-B winery:  nice restaurant with a view of the Columbia and
View from Cave B Winery.  Nice wines and a good restaurant too.
 wonderful hiking down to the river.  Or drive a bit farther north to visit the wonderful trails of the Ancient Lakeswildlife area.   To top in off, the wildflowers should be blooming soon over eastern WA.
Ancient Lake
Or go south of Ellensburg on Canyon Rd (Route 821) to the Umtanum Creek Recreation Area for a walk on a bridge and up into the creek watershed (lots of wildflowers in season).

These are just a few of the excellent day trips that provides gorgeous vistas and warm/dry conditions on most spring days.  Of course, check the forecast...there are occasionally periods when these locations experience clouds/precipitation...but they are rare.


  1. You once mentioned that Global Climate Change would initially bring Western Washington cooler, damper springs and summer. I'm not saying it's here yet, but if it was, it would look a lot like this.

    So when can we expect a little dryness?


  2. I got a huge kick out of this blog post, because the forecast for Pullman for the rest of this week is for snow. ;-)

  3. By the way, what happened to the "atmospheric river" that was supposed to be drenching us today? There was some rain, but I'd hardly consider it a drenching (and it's a good thing for me, as today was moving day).

    Did it go further north or south and miss us, or did it fail to materialize altogether?

  4. Im sort of crossing over, heading to Catherine Creek for the wildflower season start. This time of year it is all about getting over to the dry side as the bloom takes off and turns glorious.

  5. Cliff,

    Yes, this time of year it is usually a bit warmer during the day time in Yakima.

    I go there for the excellent climate science, though. Those clowns are EXPERTS. All year, every year.

  6. Cliff,

    The other question you could ask is: do you want warmer day time temperaturs, and colder nights?

    I grew up in Yakima, 1954-1964. I remember planting my squash seeds in the soil, they, of course, all germinated quickly. Three or four days later, everyone of them was dead. Frost. Yes, as a seven year old, I cried.

    That has never happened to me in Seattle. In the Puget Sound area, if it is warm enough to plant squash seeds outdoors to germinate, it is past the time of a killing frost.


    Love your blog!

  7. Stampede has been off line for reports. Anyone know whats going on?

  8. With all due respect to Cliff, I have to say that Ancient Lakes should considered "do not bother with" by any hikers or backpackers or...anybody. Nobody should go there.
    Too cold, nasty, ugly - everything is bad. No flowers, birds or cool rock formations. Boring, boring, boring. Dangerous hike, too. No room for RV's.
    Keep driving. There are just awesome potato barns just up the road - huge structures, the kids will love it!

  9. David, we were soaked up here in Bellingham. I recorded a brief clip of a car driving through an intersection for a friend. You can see it here: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/46761943/20120403_121451.mp4

    Fifteen minutes outside was enough to soak my jeans up to the knee.

  10. Speaking of wind, I just came across this cool wind map of the US in real time. It's quite pretty to watch.

  11. Cliff, I often tune in 162.55 MHz to obtain the latest weather prediction. But they use terms like "scattered rain showers" or "slight chance of showers" or "scattered rain" or "scattered showers" or "chance of rain" and so on. Can you point us to a site that lists Standard Weather Terms so we can better understand weather lingo? Thanks for info.

  12. That wind map is NEAT! I've been looking for something like that. Thanks to Unknown for posting the link.

  13. . . .just got back from Moses Lake, where I golfed mud-free in dry, warm(ish) conditions. Be sure to cover up the Obama stickers on your car before heading over.


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