February 24, 2015

The Winter Without SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

Although there have been complaints about the lack of snowfall, there is a substantial silver lining to this winter: lots of sun.   Frequent, glorious sunshine even during the mid-winter months.  One of the sunniest winters in recent memory.

And my own observation is that folks in Seattle have been a lot more cheerful and happy this winter as a result. Normally, many people complain about midwinter blahs, often known by the imposing name of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), with conversations edging towards comparing light boxes and mid-winter trips to sunnier climes.

But not this year.   People go on and on about the sun, about the high pressure, and whether this is some kind of climate-change omen.

So what has been going on?  Let's take a look at the solar radiation measurements of  this winter (Nov-January) compared to two years ago at the WSU Agweather site in Seattle.  The monthly amounts are in MegaJoules per unit meter squared (such terminology will impress your friends).  It is evident that we had a lot more solar radiation this year than two years ago.

Or consider the station in Woodinville, WA.  Let's looks at the solar radiation there last month and the previous January's in MJ/square meter

2015  113
2014  105
2013  101
2012  83
2011   79

More sun in 2015.  A lot more than 2011 and 2012.

This has been the winter of the big West Coast ridge, with extended periods of precipitation-free, sunny skies, interrupted by short periods of heavy rain.   The following plot of the precipitation observations at Seattle Tacoma Airport shows this clearly.  The blue line is the typical amounts and red line is the observed.  They show the CUMULATIVE amounts over the last 12 weeks. The horizontal plateaus indicate dry periods.
The question you are all asking:  will we have more sun?   Is there a pay back for our beautiful weather?  A cloudy yin for our sunny yang.

The answer will warm your heart.

First, the sun is getting much stronger now and the days far longer.  So even if clouds are around, there is more light.  It is rare to get major storms after roughly February 25th.  I mean big lowland snowstorms, windstorms, or floods.  Meteorological spring is here.

As I noted in an earlier blog, the ridge has not gone away, just shifted a bit westward.  The upper level map for 1 AM Monday illustrates this.  This ridge position allows weak disturbances (troughs) to pass southward through the Northwest.   But these troughs will only bring brief periods of clouds and precipitation (roughly a day) before sun comes out again.   In fact, this weekend looks sunny.

Finally, here is a high-tech ensemble-based prediction of cloud cover over Seattle from the North American Ensemble Forecasting System (NAEFS).  Cloud cover goes from 0 to 10 (completely cloudy) and the dates are on the bottom.  The horizontal black line shows the median (middle) value of the ensemble of forecasts.   We have a cloudy period coming on Thursday and Friday, followed by sun over the weekend.  Ups and downs, but we don't stay clouded in for long.

And one more measure of the warm, sunny nature of this winter.  I had to cut my lawn last weekend, something I have never done this early before.

Rider Oasis Questionnaire

A group of bicycle enthusiasts are developing the idea to place convenient kiosks around the city with items of interest to cyclists.  They have a questionnaire available on their website.  Please take a look and give them feedback if you have a minute...thanks.

The Pacific Northwest Weather Workshop
Interested in attending the big local weather workshop of the region?  The Pacific Northwest Weather Workshop will be held in Seattle at the NOAA facility on February 27-28th.   Everyone is invited and the majority of talks are accessible to laypeople.  To attend you have to register or they won't let you in the gate.  There will be a major session on the Oso landslide.  There is a registration fee that covers refreshments and food, and special student pricing.  If interested, check out this website.


  1. I wonder if this will correlate to lower suicide rates. Or perhaps higher rates among skiers? :-/

  2. I have summer SAD. Heat and too much sun actually make me feel very depressed and irritable. I have missed our normal weather!

  3. I may be in the minority here, but I must admit I've rather enjoyed the nice weather over the past couple of months. Ya gotta go with the flow...

  4. Meanwhile, the WHO/NREVSS data from the CDC shows no reduction in flu reports in the Pacific region over the 2013--2014 year; the Influence Like Illnesses report might show an increase, though the tail starts now, so we won't know its length for another few months.

    Everyone at work has been sick multiple times. Based on symptoms, I'd suspect there were at least four live strains of common colds going around, though there are few sources of information about general population trends for diseases other than influenza. Most people have had trouble getting rid of these colds as well; people have been sneezing and hacking and sniffing and coughing for about eight to ten weeks.

    That night it reached the 30s was the first night I've slept well in several weeks. I might have to fire up the air conditioner in March.

    We went from October weather directly to May weather. Maybe when May arrives, we'll skip June through October and just have eight months of winter.

  5. No shortage of SAD-inducing days on the east side of the Cascades this year. All that high pressure = lots of inversion fog. That's why I like stormy winters - keeps the atmosphere mixed up. Better to have some snow and rain and wind if it means no #@*& fog!

  6. I was wondering if a stable weather pattern might be established by the wavelength (or frequency) of the jet stream waves coming into a semi-stable resonance with the dimensions of the continent (cold in the middle, warm at or just off the edges), if that wavelength were tuned by, I don't know, maybe global average temperature?

  7. A season without SAD? I, Kris,Dave and many other NW outdoorsy types all have the new version of SAD, Snow-pack Affected Disorder.
    While i know it will not be as prevalent as Type 1 SAD, Type 2 SAD sends its users into a downward spiral that can only be cured with travel to a snow filled land.

    The silver lining, we never have 2 "bad/non-existent" seasons back to back. I am already getting excited for next year!

  8. This winter may be good for SAD, but not for snowfall. Last year may have been the best of both worlds.

    With that said, I saw a report on KING-5 that stated that in spite of the very low snowpack, we should not experience a water shortage this summer, as the rainfall has been near or slightly above normal. That does not quite pass the smell test as I saw that river runoff- is way down. The only possibility is if the reservoir regulators did an extraordinary job in preparing for a low snowpack year and optimized the storage. Is that what appears to have happened ?


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

Is Mid-June Getting Warmer or Colder?

 As I will demonstrate below, this past week has been unusually cool around the region. But that leads to another question.... is mid-June g...