February 04, 2014

Snow Flurries, Real Snow, Then a Meltdown

 Update Thursday AM:  The model solutions have evolved....snow over WA is going to be delayed or avoided...I go blog about it later today.  Enjoy the sun and cold....cliff

Some folks west of the Cascade crest are going to receive several inches of snow as a warm front approaches....but exactly who that will be is still not clear.

Cold air has spread over Washington and most of Oregon--more than cold enough to snow if moisture dared to show its face.  In fact, a weak upper disturbance brought some flurries to the area today, but no accumulation.

Here is the forecast sea level pressures, surface winds, and lower atmosphere temperatures this evening at 10 PM.
The truly cold air is east of the Rockies, which affords us some protection.  Intermediate cold air has reaches eastern Washington, and western Washington, protected by the Cascades, has milder (but still cold air) over us.  Temperatures remained below 35F for most of the western lowlands today.  There is a good pressure difference across the Cascades, resulting in winds accelerating down the Fraser River gap.  Take a look at the max surface winds during the past 24 h over NW corner of WA:

Several locations got to 40-50 mph.   The constrained nature of this "jet" of cool, dry air from the interior is obvious.  Drive 20 miles north or south of core of the strong winds and you are out of them.
       The big weather story will wait until Saturday.  We have cool air over us, and a strong warm front with substantial moisture will be approaching. Here is the predicted surface map for 4 AM on Saturday. Cold air still over Washington and northern Oregon, but you see the yellow colors (warm air) offshore.  And if you look closely you will see a wind shift from SW to NE winds and a big change in color in the same area.  That is an approaching warm front.

Such fronts cause uplift and precipitation.  Here is the three-hour precipitation ending the same time--you see what I mean.

As the front approaches, the cold air will hold for several hours, resulting in  inches of snow and perhaps a half-foot in some lucky locations.  But eventually, the warm front will push through, producing a melting slushy mess for a few hours.

Here is the 24h snowfall for the 24h ending 4 AM on Sunday and 4 AM on Monday.  In this solution, the heaviest snow hits Oregon, with the Cascades in both states getting a half-foot.  But the snow solutions have not been stable from run to run, so we need to wait to be sure.

We are lucky that this snow event is now occurring on a weekend.   And Seattle is far more prepared for snow than cities such as Atlanta, where local officials did not properly prepare their city, even with a decent forecast. 


  1. It is interesting to note that for at least SIX runs before tonight's the GFS WRF has shown a decent amount of snow in the lowlands of Western Washington.

    It is also odd that the NCEP GFS this evening, the same run as the WRF you show, clearly has precipitation moving into the sound Saturday afternoon...that precipitation is, as can be seen, BLANK on the WRF.

    I suppose we will just have to wait and allow the models to figure the situation out...

  2. misspoke? I think the snow is occurring on the weekEND. I think I will stay home that day.

  3. Too bad it's not coming in tomorrow for the parade. Jim Foreman would love to shout about #SnowHawkalypse 2014

  4. We got a light dusting of snow on the west side of Bainbridge yesterday, starting a bit after 4pm. It was coming down heavy for a brief, brief period. With the subsequent freezing weather last night, the snow that stuck is still on the ground here.

  5. Here in the UK we have had very little snow this year. Warmer temperatures however have brought a lot of rain and storms which have caused a lot of damage in the west of the country.

    Gaz Alternative Eden

  6. Surprise, Surprise. Snowfall avoided again. What a depressing winter. I don't need lake effect snow, but a couple snows a winter would sure be nice.

  7. Today's Oregon snow seems to be drifting quite far north Thursday evening, definately into SW WA and maybe up to Olympia, Enumclaw, etc.


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