January 03, 2015

Heavy Rain in Our Mountains: The Revenge of Lono

During the past months, warm rain has often buffeted our mountains.  The Cascade snowpack on January 1 is about 50% of normal and skiers are unhappy, with a number of local ski areas still  closed (such as Alpental and Snoqualmie East).   National Weather Service flood advisories have become a way of life.

Most of the warm rain events are associated with what meteorologists call, atmospheric rivers, plumes of warm, moist air moving northward out of the tropics and subtropics.   Ours generally come from around Hawaii, thus their usual name, the Pineapple Express.

But WHY is this happening?   And I mean why, not how.   The answer is clear.   The Northwest has angered Lono.  And things won't get better until we satisfy him.

Who is Lono, you might ask? 

 Lono is the Hawaiian god of storms, clouds, and rain.  Hawaiians describe him as the "akua po'o huna i ke ao lewa" or the the god whose head is hidden in the clouds. As you can see from this picture, Lono has not been happy lately.   And he is angry at us.

As a scientist, I had to convince myself that Lono is behind our problems.   First, there is the obvious fact that our warmth and rain have been coming directly from his realm, something evident in the satellite and moisture images I have shown on this blog (see an example from Sept of this year below)

But Lono has made his intentions clear in other ways.   For example, he has taken our snow and moved it to the mountains of Hawaii.   Last week, last week there was a blizzard on the volcanic peaks of the Big Island and ANOTHER blizzard is expected today, with up to a foot of snow.

Multiple blizzards in Hawaii, with more snow there then in our mountains.  Folks,it doesn't get much clearer than that.

Many of the local ski areas understand Lono's power over Northwest skiing:  recently a group from Crystal Mountain sent an offering (see below and click to see video).   It was not enough, obviously.

Last week I decided to try my hand at helping.  So I booked a flight to the Big Island.  I know I have no special powers, but I have tried to serve and be a voice for the Northwest weather deities, cousins of Lono.   Perhaps that would have some impact.   I went straight from the Kona Airport to an ancient heiau (a Hawaiian temple, see below).  I will not describe my supplications to Lono, but they were extensive and heartfelt.

A few minutes later, there was a distinct change of wind direction and the unusually large waves lessened.  I believe Lono heard.

And my contact with Lono provided some insights of why he started sending strange weather at us starting in September.  One possibility:

Lono does not like his warriors being defeated.  The next week will clearly illustrate whether Lono is satisfied.

Heavy precipitation is forecast during the next 48 hours, but the root of the moisture is NOT from Hawaii (see graphic).

Scott Sistek of KOMO TV emailed me, suggesting the future moisture pattern looks like a phoenix and HE IS RIGHT.   And guess where the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society will be next week....PHOENIX.   Will snow in our mountains be born out of the fall ashes?   Very deep.

The forecast precipitation for the next 72h will be large (see graphic), with 5-10 inches in places.  Substantial rain shadowing over Puget Sound.

But the air will be cold enough in the beginning to bring substantial snow before precipitation turns to rain, which might be a saving grace for many ski areas.  Cold air from eastern Washington will hold for a while, and easterly flow in the passes will be helpful in keeping precipitation as snow.  But the threat of freezing rain will be real in the passes and along the eastern Cascade slopes.

So Lono may be letting off the pressure a bit.   But we need to keep him happy.  Very happy.
(Happy New Year)


  1. Neither La Nina nor El Nino but El Lono...I like it :)

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. I hadn't considered the "upset deity" angle for our odd weather, but now that I've been enlightened I'm 100% on board with this theory. Clearly we need to send more and more friendly visitors to Hawaii from the PacNW so we can offer tribute ($$$) at their many fine resorts. Only then will the snowpack return! I'm off to Expedia.com now. :)

  4. OK, Cliff, back away from the pakalolo a bit. Enjoy.

  5. …I’m pretty sure this is connected to the Oregon Ducks taking down Florida State, a known favorite of Lono.

    Better watch out if Oregon wins next week’s title game!

  6. It appears a portion of Lono's revenge was manifested through UW's play in the Cactus Bowl.

  7. Uh ... isn't President Obama over that way too?

  8. Virgins to the volcano! (If we can find one...)


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

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