December 09, 2015

Powerful "Drunken" Storm to Hit the Northwest, Followed by Another Big Blow

Today I will coin a new meteorological term:  drunken storm.

Drunken Storma storm that circles around and has minimal forward motion, in contrast to normal storms that move rapidly to the east or northeast.

Tomorrow, an usually powerful storm for our region will careen around in our offshore water for an extended period before making landfall.  A very strong storm and unusual behavior.

Her is an infrared satellite image of the inebriated storm at 9:45 PM Wednesday:  it looks kind of funny, don't you think?  Not very symmetric or well formed.

 So let's view the strange behavior, using the latest UW WRF model forecasts.

At 1 AM Thursday morning, the powerful storm (969 mb!) is due west of WA State.  Very large pressure gradients over the ocean...which means big winds.

 By 1 PM Thursday, the low had moved slowly towards Vancouver Island.

1 AM Friday--it is still out there!  Now just SE of Vancouver Is.  Staggering.

 1 PM Friday, the low had weakened a bit and had drifted towards the SW Washington coast.

 FINALLY, by 1 AM Saturday the storm makes landfall and ends up over eastern Washington.

 But mamma mia, another major storm....and not a drunken heading right towards us on Saturday afternoon around 1 PM.

 That storm moves north of Puget Sound on Sunday AM, resulting in strong pressure gradient over western WA and undoubtedly powerful winds if this forecast is accurate.

And did I mention the big waves and flooding along the Washington coast?  I should have.

Take a look at the predicted significant wave heights (the average of the 1/3 highest waves) on Thursday at 7 AM.  Wow...some are 12 meters high! (around 40 ft)
 By 4 PM they reach the coast, although ONLY about 10 meters high.
 These waves, plus enhanced water levels due to low pressure over the region, should produce some coastal flooding.

And there will be plenty of precipitation during the next 72 hours, with most substantial torrents over Oregon and northern CA (see 72h predicted total below), where 5-10 inches may fall in the mountains. Lots of moisture will be spun off from the drunken storm.

And there is a lot more I don't have time to talk about, such as lots of sun in the mountains, cooler temperatures, and even the potential for lowland snow.   The atmosphere is not done with us yet.


  1. What happened to El Niño? Warmer and dryer? I've got a growing stack of lumber now thanks to these daily windstorms. When does it end?

  2. starting to really blow over here in Kingston. Wind gusts from all directions too which is different. Hope the power stays on!

  3. A few trees down in the area including a few Choke Cherries that just blocked our driveway - they were small enough that we cleared the driveway with bow and pruning saws. We are expecting company....

  4. It's been really strange with all the wind storms, and especially the fact the wind storms have seemed to be so localized. Wind storm in Seattle but not the east side? Strange to me.

  5. Every El Nino is unique:

    Both Seattle and Portland pulled off impressive hat tricks on Tuesday, setting daily records for both warmest low and warmest high temperature as well as rainfall:

    Seattle: low 50°F, high 60°F, rainfall 2.13”
    Portland: low 56°F, high 62°F, rainfall 1.67”

    Meteorological autumn (September – November) was the warmest in 121 years of recordkeeping for the 48 contiguous U.S. states, according to NOAA’s national wrapup of November and fall conditions released Wednesday morning. The national average of 56.8°F was a full 3.3°F above the 20th-century average and 0.2°F above the previous record of 56.6°F (Sep-Nov 1963). Only one state (Florida) had its warmest autumn on record, but the nation as a whole still came out on top because of the rare coast-to-coast nature of the warmth. Often, one part of the country will have a mild three-month period while another part is colder than average, as we saw dramatically this past winter with record warmth in the West and unusual chill in the East.

    The dynamics associated with El Niño are likely to keep unusually mild weather predominating over the northern U.S. for most of the winter, according to seasonal outlooks from the National Weather Service. Some forecasters are pointing to signals that appear to favor development of a negative North Atlantic Oscillation by January. Negative NAO conditions during El Niño can enhance the odds of one or more snowy nor’easters over the mid-Atlantic and New England.

  6. My niece in Battle Ground WA reports seeing a tornado there and there are reports of damage but so far no injuries. Sirens all over and she's sent pictures of damage on her Facebook feed. Apparently the NWS is investigating these reports according to OregonLive.

    Wild weather. Yesterday's sun was a nice break but i enjoy a good storm!!!

  7. Patience on the El Nino. It's more a Winter thing than a Fall thing.

    But... if we're still having this weather in February, then it'll be a great question.

    I'm just hoping that the next few fronts will actually store their moisture in snow as forecasted, and not get washed out before Spring.
    I'd hate to see all this rain flow into the sea and then have a dry winter and summer.

    What's cool is that 2015 will go down as a droughty floody hot dry rainy year -- with that looks like it's going to be normal or above rainfall for the calendar year. The short-term climate rules and tools seem to be a bit broken.

    My real worry is that the "short-term" in my previous sentence is in error.

  8. With respect to Matt's question - as I understood it, the El Nino effect caused the jet stream to move southward, carrying winter storms to California instead of the northern US and Canadian West Coasts. The storms this fall seem to be larger and chugging into the entire West Coast. Do you have an explanation, Cliff?

  9. This IS El Niño, and as I remember from previous events the storm tracks EVENTUALLY move further south and I think we are beginning to see this as evidenced by the Oregon and N Cal soaking. I think it might be interesting to look at the jet stream trends and see when they might start to slide south. Come Jan Feb and Mar we'll be wishing for precip while watching CA flood.

  10. Tell us about the possibility lowland snow?

  11. <>

    Precip has been cumulative normal all year in our region. Cliff has been pointing that out all year. I can provide that data if you want.

    What short-term climate rules are broken? What is short-term?

  12. When it's really stormy I enjoy looking at the Columbia River Bar Pilots homepage and today the bar is closed: The notice at states:

  13. Blustery overnight. One neighbor had a tree down on his roof; another got a huge branch on the roof of his pickup. Mostly it's just been rain, from light drizzle to drenching tiny droplets to huge roaring downpours. Quiet now.

  14. Hope this marks a return to the winter weather of my Oregon childhood, which inspired Ken Kesey's "Sometimes a Great Notion." Getting tired of the PNW's 25-year drought.

  15. "Getting tired of the PNW's 25-year drought."

    I am always interested in drought claims, either current or in the past. Can you share some data or point me in the right direction to find the data that would support that?

    Back in 2011 NOAA provided their "every 10 year" updated averages for our region (as measured at SeaTac), based on the previous 30 years of data (1980-2010). Our precip increased from 37.07" (based on the 1970-2000 data) to 37.49".

    Since 2010, annual precip at SeaTac has been as follows: 2011: 36.4"; 2012: 48.26"; 2013: 32.56"; 2014: 48.5"; 2015 (thru 12/10): 39.95". Avg for the last five years: 41.14" - substantially higher on average than the 2010 updated (and increased) long-term average.

    Recognizing that the 2015 snowpack was significantly below normal, 25 years encapsulates a lot of years where snowpack was above normal and in some cases far above normal, including the 1999 season where Mt. Baker set the world record for snowfall (95 ft.)

    Now I understand drought can be measured in many ways, and I am providing precip data mainly from our regional center. But keeping this as objective as possible, is there data out there that supports a "25 year drought in the PNW?"

  16. With global warming the atmospheric heat engine will be even more tumultuous with extreme precipitation and extreme drought. What needs be done is to store water for drought season and distribute water for drought areas. The ancient people were able to distribute water for their cities and farm lands (just Bing ancient canal systems). And not too ancient was the Grand Canal of China linking the north and south of China an expanse of several thousand kilometers, and the western powers creating the Suez Canal and the Panama Canal not for water resource but for commercial shipping. With modern machines, mapping and economy even greater canals can be built distributing water across the Rockies and if the artesian basins are replenished even the Central Plains can be provided for, and its pollutants can be diluted or eluted. If only there is political will and the ability to look beyond commercial gains can human kind reach Star Trek age.


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