May 05, 2013

Rising Rivers

This week we had have an ideal situation for rapidly rising rivers.  We started off cold and snowy, with low snow levels in the mountain.  Sunday/Monday brought over a foot of snow to the lower Cascades passes.

As the week progressed, temperatures warmed and yesterday (Saturday) we hit mid-70s in central Puget Sound and 80s over the south Sound, the coast, and in Oregon.   Today, will be much warmer, with 80s spreading over the region (Sunday morning we are running 7F ahead of yesterday at Seattle-Tacoma, where it got to 77F yesterday).  Yesterday, I went on an idyllic hike at Ebey's Landing on Whidbey, with extraordinary visibility.

But with lots of snow in the mountain, a low snow level with recent snow, and a surge in temperatures, huge quantities of water are entering our watersheds and rivers.  Here is a current summary of river conditions from the NWS River Forecast Center.

The Yakima River is at bankfull  and the nearby Naches River is at flood stage.  More flooding and high rivers in the Okanogan drainages of northern Washington.  Take a look at the plots of past, current, and predicted levels on the Yakima and Naches.  The Yakima is beating some daily records.

Although not flooding, the rivers drainage the western slopes are also running high.  Take a look at the levels on the Snoqualime near Tanner, where we are reaching or beating some daily records.  The media is stressing the danger of the cold, fast-running rivers this time of the year.  The danger is real: several are injured or killed nearly every year.

The forecast for the next week is extraordinary.  Warm again on Monday (around 80F for many) and then a minor marine push that night and Tuesday morning.  A drop of around 10F on Tuesday to around 70F and the entrance of some low clouds  And then improvement into the mid-70s later in the week. No precipitation at least through Saturday.

You might even dare to plant tomatoes now! 

Want to help find out the effects of coal trains on the local environment?

Atmospheric Chemistry Professor Dan Jaffe is ready to begin a study on air pollution from coal trains in the Puget Sound region.   Several state and local agencies told him that this work needs to be done, but that it is too politically hot for them to fund it.

Considering the importance of this work, Dr. Jaffe is going to depend on crowd funding to support this effort, which will allow him to secure research equipment and hire a few students.  For more information and perhaps to help, please check out this website:


  1. Love this sun (and will miss it come the June gloom!). Think it'll last through Mother's Day, Cliff?

  2. This might be a stupid question, but in regards to the coal trains: Can't they just put a cover over the coal which would prevent the coal dust from leaving the train as it goes by??

  3. Lance, would a cover over the coal keep the train from being over a mile long, blocking traffic for ages? Would it prevent an incredible amount of diesel combustion products from being spewed into the atmosphere? Would it prevent the pollution from the coal-fired power plants in China from drifting back over us?

    Covers on the individual cars would maybe help with the smallest of problems involved in a whole thing... kind of like using a towel to mop up melted iceberg on the deck of the Titanic....

  4. Interesting that today (Monday) was several degrees hotter in Seattle than Portland. It is usually the other way around. And Seattle tied Phoenix for national high temp today at 86.


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