January 08, 2014

Serious Snow Returns to the Washington Cascades

The snow pack in the Cascades has been a disappointment this winter, with a snow water equivalent on Wednesday morning ranging from around 60% near the Canadian border and 30% in the south Washington Cascades to a disastrous 20% over the Oregon Cascades (see graphic).  The Sierra Nevada is stuck at around 25%.

 But now the good news, the Northwest is finally going to get a decent snow dump during the next few days and I believe Snoqualmie Summit will be able to open this weekend.

Today's front has already started the process....with Cascades snos bringing Snoqualmie up to 25 inches as of 9 PM Wednesday...very close to the amounts typically associated with an opening in that pass.

A series of increasingly wet systems are forecast to move into the region during the next 5 days.  Let's look at the snow impacts.

For the next 72 h, the snow totals are stirring for anyone who loves snow play in the mountains.  Two to four feet of snow in the Olympic and north Cascades and perhaps 1-1.5 ft in Snoqualmie.  Good snow around Winthrop and Mazama.   Paradise and Crystal will get several feet.  Skiers will rejoice.

Taking a larger view for the same time period (below) shows that Whistler and mountains of southern BC will get hammered with snow and even the snow-deficient Oregon Cascades will do well.  But unfortunately, California will get little of this beneficence...which is very serious for summer water supply there..

What about the next 72 hr?--the period from 4 PM Sunday to 4 PM Tuesday.  The bounty continues over the Cascades, but California escapes the snow.

And did I mention the windstorm on Saturday, with a 980 hPa low center just going north of  us?  The weather map at 1 PM Saturday shows the story:  LOTS of isobars over the region.  Expect blizzard conditions in the passes.  If you into the mountains that day, prepare for difficult conditions (chains, food, blankets).  I would expect some avalanche control closures as well.

Fracking and Ozone

UW Professor Becky Alexander has established a page on the Microoryza crowdfunding web site that outlines her project  to understand why natural gas fracking often leads to high ozone values over snow (go here to see it). If you want to learn more about this important project and how you can help it happen, check out the web site.  She is now at 52% and will get nothing if she doesn't reach 100%.  So if you know folks interested in the fracking issue, please let them know about this.


  1. Hi Cliff,

    Some have been calling the event Saturday a minor atmospheric river event...there does appear to be a little bit of the traditional southwesterly flow and maybe some moisture with tropical origins, but the snow level does not appear to rise that much, thankfully.
    NWS has been advertising 2-4 inches of rain in the mountains below 5000 feet in a few of their discussions. That certainly does not seem true in the WRF outputs...

  2. Cliff: Please accept this for what it is….a helpful note regarding your book on Amazon.

    For some reason, the detailed description still lists your affiliation with KUOW.


  3. Ben, there can be a big difference between the south part of the Olympics and the North Cascades.

    The Olympics and the more exposed areas of the Cascades will certainly see some heavy rain Friday night. Places like Stevens Pass might only get a short period of rain. If this was November we would say it is a good base-building pattern!

  4. Will be driving over the pass on Friday night. Bringing our Subaru, and although it's AWD with snow tires, we'll be bringing our [as yet unused] tire chains as well. Of course, it might wind up just being cold rain, it sounds like.

  5. Terry..thanks...my next book will say highlight KPLU as will any future printings of my current book. KPLU has been a wonderful home for me..cliff

  6. Hi Cliff,

    I heard that the aurora might be visible in Seattle tonight and tomorrow. Is there anywhere within driving distance of Seattle that might be clear enough to view the lights?

    Thank you!

  7. Would you consider blogging on the likely weather for the Seahawks game tomorrow. It would be interesting to hear your comments on forecasting for a specific small location for a specific short time. Also there's plenty of interest in the subject. Peter

  8. Any update for today's wind storm? I live at the very southern tip of Vashon Island in a rented beach cabin. The waves are huge and white capped this morning. When the wind whips up like this I see some pretty amazing things like what could be described as "spray devils". Anyway the Intellicast web site has this lightning strike graphic. Apparently there has been lightning on the coast.

  9. The snow pack in the Cascades has been a disappointment this winter, ... iwintertires.blogspot.com


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