October 18, 2016

A Deeper Look at Saturday's Storm: Can We Do Better?

There have been a lot of complaints about the storm forecast for Saturday, noting that the actual winds (gusting to 30-40 mph, with a few gusts to 50 mph over Seattle) were less than predicted (gusts to 40-60 mph).  If the winds were 10 mph stronger, I probably would not be writing this blog, since probably a few hundred thousand people would have lost power.

As I will describe below, there were two problems with last week's forecasts:
  • although the storm intensity was well forecast, the track was off by about 60 miles.
  • meteorologists such as myself did not effectively communicate the changing threat of this storm and the uncertainty in the forecasts.

Saturday waves on Puget Sound
Picture courtesy:  Seattle Times

The Initial Warnings

The first hint of a major storm event was apparent about a week before Saturday, when a number of the global models began predicting that Typhoon Songda would travel across the Pacific, transition to an extratropical storm, and then strengthen rapidly as it approached the Pacific Northwest.

What was particularly threatening was that model run after model run (for forecasts initialized Tuesday and Wednesday) showed a huge, deep storm developing just offshore....a storm as deep as the famed Columbus Day Storm. Here is a sample.   955 hPa. Amazing.  And of great concern.

84h forecast valid at 5 PM Saturday

We knew there was considerable uncertainty in these forecasts, since the storm had to undergo transition from a typhoon to a midlatitude system (switching energy source in the process) and would travel thousands of miles before reaching our shores.  These projections were not only consistent in time, but since they were relatively short projections (120-84 hr) there should have been some skill.  In other words, we  could not ignore the threat inherent in this forecast and had to tell the public about the possibility.

Not surprisingly, the media went bonkers after they heard about it,  with all kinds of stories about the Columbus Day Storm (see Seattle Times headline below)

Accompanying these stories were lots of scary pictures.

Let me stress, at this point (Tuesday or Wednesday) there was substantial uncertainty inherent in this this forecast, as confirmed by our ensemble systems (models run many times) and I don't think we communicated this strongly enough.

Thursday:  A New Reality

But everything changed on Thursday after the storm had gone through transition into a midlatitude system and was firmly embedded in the midlatitude flow:  virtually all the modeling system indicated a very different evolution.  There would be two storms,  another midlatitude system late Thursday and Friday morning and the Saturday storm would be MUCH weaker (965-970 hPa) and very compact.  Such a low pressure still indicated a powerful storm, in the class of the kinds of storms we get every 10 years (e.g., 2006 Chanukah Eve, 1993 Inauguration Day, etc.).   Let me illustrate.

Here is the UW model sea level pressure forecast (driven by the National Weather Service GFS model) for for first storm (valid 11 AM Friday).  982 hPa low crossing the tip of the Olympic Peninsula.  Typical looking winter storm around here.  Yawn.

 And here is the forecast initialized at 5 AM Thursday for Saturday at 5 PM, showing the second (ex-typhoon) storm.  A lot different--much deeper 969 hPa with far larger pressure differences and thus wind.

The forecast started a day later (5 AM Friday) and valid at the exact same time (5 PM). A bit weaker, faster up the coast, and very compact.  Same track (across the NW tip of the Olympics).

Size Matters

Want to see the vast difference in horizontal scale between the Friday and Saturday storms?   Here is a direct comparison.  As shown by the scale of the clouds spiraling into the storm, the low center was enormously bigger on Friday.  Even Trump would be impressed.

The Problem

So on Friday, we knew we had a weaker and smaller storm, but the central pressure was still quite low (anything under roughly 985 hPa can produce strong winds around here).   But there was something else, there was reasonable uncertainty regarding the track...and that was critical for such a small storm.  There was variations of 50-100 miles among the major modeling systems and among the ensembles of specific models, like the GFS.

One way to show this uncertainty is from a graphic that presents the variation of the pressure forecasts for the UW high-resolution ensemble system,  in which the UW WRF model is run many times with different initial conditions from varying Global modeling systems.  Here is the variability of the sea level pressure forecasts for 8 PM Saturday, when the storm was making landfall.  The yellow/orange colors show substantial differences among the forecasts, signifying uncertainty in the location/intensity of the low center.

The public needed to understand that the threat level of the Saturday storm was much less than earlier in the week.  They needed to understand that this was a very compact system, and that if the actual track was only 50 or so miles west of the predicted track of the high-resolution prediction, Seattle and the interior would experience much lesser winds.

I tried to communicate this track uncertainty in my blog and the National Weather Service did as well.  In fact, forecasters at the Seattle NWS forecast office did a masterful job on Thursday morning, a portion of which I will repeat:

The exact track of the low will make a huge difference in how badly this storm impacts western Washington. There is a 1 in 3 chance of the low center directly crossing some part of the central or north coast of western Washington. This would be a worst case scenario leading to a historical windstorm for nearly all of western Washington that would be long remembered. There is a 2 in 3 chance that the low center will pass further offshore... making landfall on Vancouver Island. This outcome would confine the most damaging winds to the coast and to the north interior (areas north of everett). Inland locations such as the Puget Sound region and the I-5 corridor of southwest Washington would experience the type of windstorm that would normally be expected a couple times each storm season. Power outages and tree damage over inland locations would be less widespread in the scenario.

We not only need to provide society of the worst case scenario, but also the most probable and the uncertainties. Unfortunately, we (meteorologists) were not as effective as possible in communicating our current knowledge of the storm and the uncertainties.    How do we know that?   Because some of the media was still hawking a Columbus Day Storm type event, and exaggeration and hype were spreading through social media (see a tweet below that was making the rounds).   Folks were stripping stores bare and organizations were canceling activities even during times when no threat existed (e.g., Friday night/Sat morning).


In the end the actual storm track was about 60 miles west of the predicted location of most (but not all) of the  forecat models (see graphic).  Such an error is not large for a 24-h lead time.   

Unlike the story presented by some, the storm was not weaker than forecast (in terms of central pressure), but a bit smaller in size.  In fact, when the system passed Tatoosh Island(TTIw1) on the NW tip of the Olympic Peninsula, the pressure fell to 968.5 hPa (see graphic).   Excellent intensity forecast.

There was some false information being spread about the storm, even by local meteorologists.  For example, it was claimed that the storm was weakened by splitting into two storms.  This interpretation was based on faulty understanding of satellite scatterometer data.

Better Technology Would Have Helped

There are two main technological enhancements that would have really helped.
First, we acutely need a radar on the Oregon Coast.  The Langley Hill radar near Hoquiam picked up the storm when it was nearing landfall (see graphic at 5:10 PM Saturday), but that only gave us a few hours warning.

If we had a radar on the Oregon coast, it could have told us on Saturday morning that the storm was tracking farther to the west and greatly improved our short-term forecast.  I am not sure if Senator Maria Cantwell can help us with the Oregon radar (as she did with the Washington one)--we need our friends in Oregon to step up to the plate on this one.

Second, our ability to forecast such events is undermined by the lack of a high-resolution (e.g., 4-km grid spacing) ensemble forecast system over the U.S.   Such a system would help provide high quality probabilistic predictions of such events by making large numbers (e.g., 20-50) of forecasts.  Report after report, committee after committee, user group after user group have pleaded with the National Weather Service to do this and they have dragged their heals.   Even the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is experimenting with a small high-resolution ensemble system (see below).  Congress needs to push NWS management to finally build this acutely needed technology and to provide funding for the additional computer resources it requires.


Finally, my profession needs to work hard to find better approaches for communicating uncertainty in our forecasts.  Methods that will be effective in this age of social media.   On Thursday, some of us will meet at the NWS Seattle Forecast Office to talk about this important topic.  We must  find a way to tell folks about the worst case, the probable scenario, the uncertainties of the forecast, and eventually provide calibrated probabilities of parameters such as wind speed.


Please support  I-732, the revenue-neutral carbon tax swap, which will help reduce Washington State's greenhouse gas emissions, make our  tax system less regressive, and potentially serve as a potent bipartisan model for the rest of the nation.  More information here.   Some opponents of I-732 are spreading false information, suggesting that I-732 is not revenue neutral.   This claim can be easily disproven as discussed here.  I strongly support I-732 as do many UW climate scientists.  We have an unprecedented opportunity to lead the nation in reducing carbon emissions and to establish a model that could spread around the country.


  1. Cliff, I believe a measurement of uncertainly would help communicate (and be very hard to ignore), such as CONFIDENCE:50%. Perhaps coupled with INTENSITY and other values, they would be used in bulk. For me, even if there's a confidence of 25% that it will be BAD, I would wan to take efforts to protect myself - so I see value in a 'rating' -> however you want to represent that (A thru F, or Red thru Green, or a % percentage (I like percentages)).

  2. Cliff,

    Bare with me for the sake of clarification here:
    I have noticed that stronger windstorms in the past have had both: 1-higher pressures and 2-tracks further offshore. We know the pressure was 968MB, quite a deep low. You mention that the storm (strongest gradients) was small in size, that seems to be the case. But the pressure was also low in Seattle (986MB) and the pressure gradients were weak (PDX-KBLI, KPDX-KSEA, KSEA-KBLI). So this means that the area of low pressure was widespread, and would give reason for weak pressure gradients between stations. Why were the gradients so weak? This seems that this needs be the question answered. The only reason I can think of was other low structures formed around the main upper trough to the SW of the storm. This would give explanation as to why the pressures didn't rise the next day and why we didn't get the pressure gradients needed for a strong wind storm.

    Or was the lack of pressure rise just due the entire trough of low pressure being broad and not necessarily due to other low structures?

    Thanks for all the write ups!

  3. First, thanks for all you do with this blog, Cliff. You devote a tremendous amount of time and energy providing excellent posts, not just on weather, but important local issues (e.g. mathematics curriculum). Second, having lived through the 1962, 1993 and 2006 storms, having the Typhoon!! miss Seattle did not hurt my feelings one bit. In conversations with family members about the potential high winds late in the week, I mentioned several times there was a lot of uncertainty with timing/track/strength. Of course, the usually reliable ECMWF was showing the most concerning track early on. Third, the generator was due for a fall function test, and the last of the patio furniture needed to be put away. Both done on Thursday. Lastly, some parts of the state did get hit hard. Naselle Ridge and Megler (SW corner of Washington) both had gusts in the mid-80's. Steve Pool and Scott Sistek of KOMO-TV titled their 2005 book appropriately: "Somewhere, I Was Right; Why Northwest weather is so predictably unpredictable."

  4. I like those two satellite pics Cliff. If I had to chose I'd pick the Friday storm to cause higher winds which it did in a few places. Thanks for clarifying the news about two areas of low pressure but you can tell from the satellite especially the water vapor that energy started to dig into N CA causing the storm to become vertical and even split a little.

    I wish we could see what actually happened displayed just like short term meso models 24 hrs in the future but for the past lol. Input everything that actually occurred, pressures, winds, and total rainfall and animate it. I understand this already occurs but make it easy for us to view. It'll give us weather nerds better understanding of weather models trends and biases.

  5. I am very appreciative of the effort you make on this blog to keep people informed. I trust weather information from you more than the news media. Thanks.

  6. So it would have lived up to the hype had it just headed more Easterly? That's the narrative. Proof? Forget about the pressure, was it really that well organized? Didn't look or act like it was. It broke in to two storms. Maybe there was some cancellation? Offshore wind data? Guesses of maybe a few thousand people without power? That could happen on a summer day due to someone crashing in to a power pole.

    And the usual plea, if only there had been more money and more technology, then it would have been forecast Nirvana. You said that a lot too before the radar went in off our coast. But that still was not enough to get accurate one day out about the storm that was ... mostly off our WA shores as it neared significant human interaction. So why wasn't our new radar enough based on the last pleas for more technology?

    Maybe it's time to just admit that this is a really inexact science in its infancy? Sure we've got better tools now so we are not completely blindsided. But very often, the forecast even one week out is completely wrong. For example on Monday the forecast for Saturday was patchy clouds. Now it is rain. Do we really need to obsess so much about the weather? It's a common human pastime, but really immaterial in most cases. We go on with life regardless of the actual outcome. And the last thing we need is a more hyped up media.

    And yet you join the hyped up media with the politics? Embarrassing for someone who's trying to appear authoritative and objective.

  7. Thanks for the deep dive analysis, Cliff. I appreciate your deep concern about not only the technical aspects of your profession but how you communicate the information about it's findings. As a graphic designer I'm acutely aware of the challenges of communicating information precisely, clearly, and in a way that it might not be understood. With all due respect to the NWS their statement of the situation is too complicated. Simple sum ups of key facts and splendidly clear graphics would help. I like to think of putting the information into terms that an executive would understand (apologies to executives but sometimes...). I even had a boss who once told me, when I was computer programmer no less, "I don't understand words. Draw me a picture." So, thinking along the lines of the "Cone of Uncertainty" in hurricane forecasts, what can your profession due to improve things graphically? At least that's the perspective I come from. Maybe communicating weather information could be a cross-disciplinary project at UW? Again, thanks for all that you do for us in the Northwest. It is greatly appreciated.

  8. Again, two things that would help that require ZERO new technology.
    1. Probability graphics. A map with a probability path and another for expected wind speeds would have helped greatly, especially as the max winds expected in the Puget Sound kept dropping. These maps need to be based on geography, not county lines (NWS, I'm looking at you). A lot of people can create such graphics nowadays using Photoshop or other programs.
    2. More frequent updates. Us armchair commentators should not be getting ahead of the forecasters when it comes to looking at models and seeing reality deviate from the forecast. That was the case on Saturday and in many past cases. We saw the changes hours before official word came back confirming it. You want to get the word out when the forecast changes quickly? That requires frequent updates. The NWS does some tweeting, but forecast updates are still too far apart.

  9. A similar communication / uncertainty problem exists with avalanche hazard forecasts. As noted by Ana Chron above, we have found that a simple statement of confidence goes a long way in communicating degrees of uncertainty.

    The problem is that "certainty" is hardly the whole picture. The real meat that needs to be communicated is RISK, which is a totality of 4 variables:

    Probability ( degrees of certainty)




    Thus the problem is that a statement of "Low confidence" triggers a sense of unlikelihood, without consideration of hazard potential. With avalanche risk, we would call this a "Low Confidence, High Consequence" scenario. This simple framing seems to be effective in not only defining confidence but doing so within a concept of risk totality, which after all, is what it is all about.

    Perhaps if somehow "Danger" or "Hazard" was actually rated by the meteorologists (similar to avalanche forecasts) then the media rhetoric would be more adequately restrained. As it is now, the media seems to be the ones defining the danger and their tendency to let their fertile imaginations goes wild with it. Again, this is, at least to some degree, what we have found in communicating avalanche risk.

    BTW, rating /managing the variables of exposure and vulnerability is a responsibility of the individual. You tell them what probability and consequence is and leave the rest up to their specific situation.

  10. Cliff, first and foremost, please continue to post on your blog, even if an event might be seen as a "minor setback". Improvements in technology and communication will do little to solve the problem if the messages are falling on deaf ears, and, as you are doubtless already aware, a great many people will glaze over at the first graph that "looks confusing". You provide a very important piece of what will be needed to fix whatever may have "gone wrong" over the weekend. Indeed, not everyone has the motivation to sit with a cross section forecast graph and figure out what's happening. :D They need someone to help explain things, and in that you are helping immensely.

    That aside, I'm sad to say that I personally feel there was a general communication failure here. While it's certainly true that the track uncertainty WAS described before the storm, and it was explained that this would result in lower inland winds, as a commenter in the previous post noted, that "Requires Reading"... which is more scary to some adults than an engorged, candle-lit pumpkin to a child at the end of October. I check the forecast models frequently leading into the weekends, to better understand what will happen when I'm up flattening the soles of my boots on the mountains, but even I have never stumbled upon the NCAR Ensemble Wind Probability graph! Yet that is precisely the type of 1-second takeaway that people need to see to get this conversation moving in the right direction. (Sadly, when I checked the ensemble forecast page on UW Atmos before the weekend, it was mostly empty; perhaps I need to figure out how to change the initialization time.)

    I'm going to go digging for some historical NCAR graphs, but did the 12UTC Fri ensemble show the same "lower wind in Seattle" probabilities? And the 00UTC Fri?

    Probability is difficult for people to grasp. They generally don't understand a "50% chance of rain", let alone what might be meant by a "40% chance of hourly max winds in excess of 25mph, with 95% confidence", but we have to start somewhere. Start with the graphs you use! Your readers will ask questions when confused, make recommendations, and maybe spot areas for improvements. When people ultimately fail to understand the probabilities, then we work together to improve understanding of that piece.

  11. I think the weather community is overthinking how to communicate. You're making it way harder than it needs to be. Keep it simple.

    "There is X chance there will be a major weather event and Y chance that it will be a non-event. Given the potential severity of a major weather event, be prepared and adjust your plans as info comes in, but remember that there is Y chance of it not being a big deal."

    And the whole community could provide public updates more frequently. In this age of instant communication, populations have the ability to check their phones and adjust to new information. Saturday morning, all news and social media outlets should have led with "this is going to be a non-event." People EASILY would have adjusted. EASILY. It's a no-brainer. Provide current info and people will respond.

  12. I would rather be prepared and then watch it fizzle out than the other way around.

  13. Numbers mean very little to a lot of people, words mean more. I think if you had said there is "only" a 1 in 3 chance etc etc. And then later "there is a much greater chance" (2 in 3) etc etc. That way people can react more instinctively, and gauge the warning more appropriately.

  14. A better description of forecast uncertainties would be good, but after reading your blog the uncertainties were easily evident and the resulting storm should not have been a surprise to anyone. Being old enough to remember when forecasts were just about totally useless in this area, I appreciate the advances that have been made, and look forward to new uncertainty graphics.

    However, don't get you hopes up too high. The media always wants to 'Trump'et a big story, and the public's grasp of statistics and uncertainty is clearly shown by the rather unhinged response to terrorism in this country.

    Thanks for you all your work.

  15. First, good to see the NYT (New York Times) picking up on the poor forecasting story you have been reporting for years. (yesterday's NYT). And thanks for those updates on this most recent storm. I did appreciate the variability in the models and following the Langley Radar I could see the storm was tracking further west than forecast. So I had a sense we would have less winds here in Port Townsend. Again thanks. And yes, I will vote yes on the climate initiative on the ballot.

  16. I've been following this blog for some time as an outdoor enthusiast looking for the best understanding of weather trends as I head out sea kayaking in the entire Pacific Northwest. One question I've had since following this blog is the level of coordination and understanding between US and Canada. When I read your blog, you sometimes include what's happening north of the political border and sometimes not. Since my travels take me well into the northerns stretches of the Salish Sea, Discovery Islands and Johnstone Strait, I'm missing the same level of analysis that you provide here. Do you have a Canadian counterpart? Thanks again. Glad to see you quoted in the New York Times today too!

  17. Cliff, you can't do anything about the increasingly silly and often histrionic level of sensationalism going on right now - not just in the weather forecasting business, but within our culture at large. Everyone has the attention span of a gnat these days, and media outlets are always going to be doing their own version of "squirrel!", whenever they think they can garner more ratings and/or clicks. The Weather Channel has become a parody of itself, they rarely interrupted their critical nighttime programming of silly reality TV to give updates on the approaching system, yet when they did they screeched and howled for all of their money's worth.

  18. I remember the Columbus Day Storm. The impact of last weekend's storms was nothing compared to that. I watched my Grandfather's two-story building stagger to its knees, all the hay inside gathering overhead in a huge bristling baseball. I saw the roof of my home roll up like an old tuna can and fly off into the distance. I've loved storms ever since. Thank you for your insights. I enjoy reading your blog--even if I am an Oreonian!!! Haha

  19. The communication model used for hurricanes seems to be somewhat effective.

    You've got 1) a strength indication showing current and projected strength by location/time, and 2) a graphic that shows the probabilities of its path. The key is that is very graphically oriented and extremely familiar to much of the population.

    It's not perfect, and can still be wrong, but people seem accustomed to making reasonable and painful decisions on that data. Like boarding up windows (not fun if you've ever done a two story house!) and even evacuating danger-prone areas.

    The other is that media outlets don't feel obligated to make up their own (often incorrect or hyped) graphics when they get the official ones from the NWS.

    Why do we have to re-invent new tools when we already have ones that work and are widely understood?

    We just have to tweak the graphics a bit and come up with a strength rating system that works for mid-latitude cyclones, perhaps one based on a balance of sustained and gust wind forecasts (I think hurricanes just use sustained winds) or simply pressure.

  20. The human factor plays a role. People vary considerably in their response to probabilistic information in many arenas. For example, a doctor might tell a patient that based on family and medical history, there is a 20% likelihood of developing breast or prostate cancer. Patients given this information might make completely different health decisions (i.e. "better safe than sorry") given their individual risk tolerance. Or, a person buys a PowerBall ticket even though the probability of hitting the jackpot is microscopic ("you have to play to win"). Decision makers are placed in a bind when confronted with a probabilistic forecast, because their choices carry economic and public relations risks. Do you cancel school, marshal snow removal or power line maintenance crews and authorize overtime? I believe officials err on the side of caution out of concern for safety and liability. This is not a reason to forego improving forecasting. But it does bear keeping in mind when we talk about communicating uncertainty in terms of probabilities.

  21. Cliff, thanks for this followup. Once again, I have written to Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Cong. Kurt Shcrader asked them to help fund a NWS radar station on the north-central Oregon Coast.

  22. I live in the Willamette Valley and I'd love to see better radar coverage for incoming off-shore systems. How do I make that happen?

  23. similar thought to John Marshall above... Hurricane matthew NOAA folks shared a graphic of probabilities of 3 diff wind speed targets. Having 3 disparate speed predictions was super helpful


  24. Michael, I live in Salem. I suggest you do as I did and write Wyden, Merkley and your congressman if it's not Schrader.
    Bill Powell

  25. Cliff, I remember that during one particularly intense El NiƱo year that there was a research grant that funded "off season" Hurricane Hunter aircraft to fly West Coast storms. Given the potential damage of our overlooked mid latitude cyclones warrant a "hunter" aircraft be stationed out of PDX? Also, given the black swan of the Mazanita Tornado, the Oregon Coastal radar seems even more important.

  26. What about a weathership at station Papa?
    Would the give better ocean and sea level data?

  27. Better resolution on watches and warnings.

  28. I concur with Gregg concurring with John above. The hurricane strength & probability graphics seem to be well thought out and pretty easy to assimilate.

  29. Ok... Wow is it wet! We have way above average precipitation this month, yes? Last wet season my location ran 400% above normal. Should we expect another epic wet winter this year again in select area's of Western Washington?

  30. I have followed your blog for years and just love it. I’ve also read your book on Northwest Weather with equal pleasure. I’m prompted to email you because I’ve often wondered if there is a scientific/statistical approach to deciding what date is optimal to change in to and out of snow tires, here in the Seattle area.
    Presumably, if one wanted a 100% chance of never getting caught without snow tires, one would use snow tires all the time. Conversely, if a driver never bought snow tires, he or she would have a high, but not 100% chance of getting caught in a snow storm. (There is some probability that it won’t snow.) Given that a driver must buy eight tires instead of four, there would be some time-value of holding the extra tire “inventory.” Because wear on a snow tire is faster than on a regular tire, one would want to minimize the time the snow tires are on. There would have to be some assumptions about where one lived and at what altitude, the quality (price) of the tires, and some average driving mileage per year or month. One might also have to value the utility of avoiding getting stuck in the snow or knowing that one can venture out with more assurance with snow tires than without. Also, it might be rational to wait until after the first snow storm.
    I usually put on snow tires when it looks like it’s about to snow. That, however, leaves me waiting for hours at the tire store, because so many others do the same. So that adds in another variable, some sort of value on one’s time. In addition, my “look at the sky” method also risks getting caught if it snows sooner than I thought it would. But, here’s where the math comes in, maybe look at the sky and guess is the optimal method.
    I don’t know if it would be fun for you, but it would be interesting for me, and perhaps others who follow your blog, to see the reasoning and the math. I don’t have the skills or knowledge of where the data lie to do this myself.

  31. With regards to Communication:

    I can't keep track of who's on first. On a fast changing story such as the forecast for this storm there were many many Updates to the original posting. Without comparing the original to the subsequent Updates word for word I can't glean what the updated information is and it's importance.

    I suggest either appending the updates to the original post or using some form of "mark-up" type face to delineate the change.

  32. Hello Cliff,
    I would love to see a post directed at skiiers regarding this winter's outlook, you did a couple last year and they were great!


  33. Just voted for I-732. Some of the opposing views of some of the progressive environmental groups are are saying it doesn't go far enough and that we need to "do it right" the first time. Well, ObamaCare wasn't perfect but it was a start. This one may not be perfect either but we need to get a foot in the door and get started on it. We can work to improve it later. We can't wait for the environmental groups who are sometimes too pure for their own good to get their acts together.

  34. Notes re: better communication... it seems like most of the working class got frequent updates during the week from major news sources as well as social media, but by Friday afternoon and Saturday, coverage became much more sparse and infrequent. I'm not sure if that's because the actual coverage WAS less frequent, or if it only seemed that way because the populace wasn't congregated at workplaces discussing it. Maybe a better "push" system of communication would help--Twitter is good, but maybe even text alerts from NWS or something could be helpful?

    Second--I don't think your point that "if wind speeds were 10 mph higher you wouldn't be writing this article" is fair. Some areas went from "HISTORIC WINDSTORM" to "GENTLE BREEZE," especially those in the South end where some places got 20 - 30 mph gusts or less. Places a few miles East, like Puyallup, got seemingly no wind at all. In that regard it seemed like a major miss to laypeople, not a small one. The storm track was off by 60 km but it seemed like, even mid-storm, communication was extremely poor about what the storm track REALLY was, and what it meant for different regions. Reading jumbled and hectic tweets and forecasts, even as of Saturday evening, gave me no insight as to whether I should still expect any wind at all. For such a small storm, painting "the puget sound area" with a broad brush was remarkably ineffective and resulted in a huge number of confused citizens while the coast was being battered and the foothills were calm.

  35. NOAA came out with its Jan. through April long range forecasts. They are saying La Nina is back so we have a better chance at having a cooler and wetter fall, and especially mid to late winter. I know "The Blob" was supposed to be on its way out. Do you think with all this unsettled weather that maybe the blob got mixed up enough that its nearly gone? If it doesn't go away completely then how could that effect our cooler and wetter (mostly talking lowland snow chances here!) winter?

  36. I moved to Bellevue in June and just found your blog on Tuesday. My family was all flying in from California and Reno, with flights on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday! Quite a weekend for their first visit. I think you did a great job of communicating the rapid changes and the uncertainty. Thank you!

  37. I would rather hear worst case scenario and be prepared, than be undermanned, and not prepared enough. You folks did a great job. Enough stuff going on in the world, what a waste of time to criticise others for doing their best with the information they have at hand.

  38. I suppose the biggest factor in the communication, as you point out, is the media. People are more likely to read the shock headlines and assume the worst - and then not read into the article, let alone to read what the article was sourced from.

  39. You state "Unlike the story presented by some, the storm was not weaker than forecast (in terms of central pressure), but a bit smaller in size."

    I remain skeptical on that point. Of course, we are interested in the wind, not necessarily barometric pressure. When I look at winds reported on Vancouver Island (other than exposed locations or in the straits which typically receive unrepresentative winds), I do not see great wind intensity. So, I still think the forecast was bad both on track and wind strength.

  40. Hello Cliff and all his bloggers. I just read the NY Times article about his work: let's hope he slays the dragon. One non-technical point. It seems that so many TV weatherpeople just will say anything to create a panic or a headline. A few notorious instances come to mind from regional NYC stations: 1-the misreporting of a winter storm last year, coming in from the Ohio Valley, veering NE in a typical pattern. Winds all coming from the NW or SW. Nowhere near the coast. The CBS-TV guy said "Well folks, here comes a huge Nor'easter heading our way!" Uh, no, it wasn't a Nor'easter in any way. But the weather guy used that term because previously there had been some disruptive storms that were traditional Nor'easters here, and the word causes panic in this area. Another obvious flub was the reporting of that huge "non-storm" last winter, causing the NYC subways to shut down and the southern part of the State to hacve an emergency declared! I live in the southern NY Catskill Mountains which used to have real winters. That storm delivered 1" here. Schools were closed, store shelves emptied. No storm. Local weather folks need to do better not over-selling bad weather. There's enough real bad wetaher to go around...
    -Harv H, Kingston NY

  41. Hi...It would be hard to blame you for having trouble taking much of what is said in Washington seriously. You heard about the Medicare actuary who was forced to fudge the numbers and lie to Congress to keep his job. You heard the falsified numbers in Iraq on everything from the cost of the war to the number of trained Iraqi troops to a slam dunk case for weapons of mass destruction. You heard about the administration sponsored fake newscasts to mislead people all across America.Read more-Scatterometry


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