October 30, 2016

Monthly Precipitation Records Have Fallen

Yesterday, Seattle-Tacoma Airport's October rainfall finally exceeded the October monthly record of 8.96 inches, and it is well over 9 inches at this point.  A number of other western Washington locations (such as Olympia and Hoquiam) have exceeded their October records, as well as many locations in eastern Washington (see below)

Really, the eastern Washington wetness is quite exceptional.   The US Drought Monitor no longer has any part of Washington in drought.

To get an idea of the amazing amount of water we have received, here is a plot of the percentage of normal precipitation observed during the past month. Most of Washington has had above 200% of normal with much of eastern WA with more than 400% of normal.   Same thing is true of northern CA and SW Oregon.

With all this precipitation, local rivers are running high, and many very high (>90 percentile of flows).
And folks, the rain is not over.  Here is the prediction 72 hr cumulative precipitation ending 5 PM Wednesday.  Vancouver Island is going to get hammered with over 10 inches along its SW slopes, while the Cascades will be moistened by 1-5 inches (which almost seems like a sprinkle compared to what they have gotten).

What is really exceptional is the amount of precipitation that has hit and will hit northern California.  Fire risk is way down and the reservoirs have started to refill early.   I suspect this winter will be a "drought breaker" for the Golden State.  

So why has it been so wet?  Well, the proximate cause is a persistent area of low pressure over the northeast Pacific, as shown by the the following  upper level (500 hPa) anomaly (difference from normal) map for the past month.  The purple/dark blue shows a strong negative anomaly (low pressure) just off the NW coast.  This feature has brought clouds and precipitation.  Why is it there?  I can't provide an explanation.


Join the "climate heroes" protest at Puget Sound Energy (PSE) at 11:30 AM Monday in Bellevue (information here)

Puget Sound Energy has joined with other major carbon polluters (like the petroleum industry) to contribute massive amounts of funding to stop I-732, the carbon tax swap initiative (which I support).   We suspected this would happen, once it became clear that I-732 might pass.   The funds are being used for a massive misinformation campaign (No on 732).  So join those who want to see real progress made in fighting against global warming produced by increasing levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.  Tell PSE either in person or via email/telephone that their working against effective measures to deal with climate change is not in society's or their long-term best interest.


  1. That is great news for California, Cliff.

  2. Cliff,
    I support this spirit of this initiative 100%, however, after two years (when the legislature can make changes to the law) you can rest assured that this will not (over time) be 'tax neutral'. Voters already accept a sales tax of around 10%. Drop it to about 9% for two years and our legislature will surely raise the sales tax to 'where it was supported before'. The same would be true for business taxes.

    I would much rather see a VERY AGGRESSIVE subsidy program for wind and solar (my understanding is that some of the current programs are ending). Bottom line is that while I absolutely support the goals of this initiative, I do not trust our government to be the manager.

    1. Dear Unknown,

      You distrust of government will be the death of us all. I am somewhat in sympathy with the thought that taxes might go up, but you and I are in a position in which we must focus on the dire consequence of further delay. Time is not on the side of the status quo. No longer is perfect the only enemy of good, better is now an enemy also.

      We cannot delay. The coming climate changes are already locked in, with far worse coming without immediate changes.

  3. Unknown,
    By that logic, there is nothing to stop the legislature from raising the sales tax 1% without the initiative. You say you don't trust the government to be the manager, yet you trust them to run a subsidy program? Government has wasted huge amount of money subsiding "green" efforts, like Seattle's Pronto bicycles. Government is really a very poor manager of such programs and the temptation is to use the cash for supporters. THAT is what we are trying to avoid. Let the free market system with tax incentives do the right thing..cliff

  4. Perhaps I'm wrong but what's unusual is to have so many diverse locations breaking records. Spokane area down thru the Palouse over to Yakima and up past Wenatchee. Then all the variable western lowland locations. Did the beaches? It just shows a lot of storms came in various shapes and direction.

    I do have to report that due to the extreme cloudiness, Yakima will end its 31st month of above normal temperatures (maxes). But our overnight lows have been balmy so our average mean is still above the average. And this is making me consider a "yes" vote.

  5. You are right, there IS nothing to stop the gov from increasing taxes by another 1% except that at some point (and I think that is now) the 'limit' that the electorate will allow has been reached. There is no chance (in my opinion) that a tax rate of 11% could be proposed and passed; the big WE would rise up and call a halt. But if through legislation the tax rate is Decreased (as per the initiative) then the electorate (over time) will forget and think that when the next tax increase is proposed 'hey, we are at 9%, what is another 1%' and so the base (sales tax, perhaps) goes up and it appears (and can be stated by politicians) that the (sales tax) is not any higher that it has been before. I also hear you loud and clear about the Pronto bike debacle and completely concur. I also completely agree that tax incentive is the best approach to this issue. But, I prefer the 'carrot' rather than the 'stick'. Provide massive tax incentives to convince people to (for example) install solar panels or purchase electric cars. Do not penalize people (via taxes) for using obsolete fuels. I believe that in the long run the carrot will be more likely successful.

  6. Isn't PSE just meeting the demands of the power users, 80% of whom are Democrats in this area? I mean, if people put their actions where their mouths were, and reduced demand, PSE wouldn't be fighting so hard to generate power on your behalf.

    Sea-Tac has it's busiest year in history flying the good liberals of Washington back home for the holidays, and spewing pollutants into the air, so they can return with their wagging fingers refreshed.

    Nobody cares about climate change. It's an image issue. Look at me everyone, I care about climate change and I hate the working-class people who don't.

  7. Spokane received 1.27 inches of rain overnight,not only shattering the all time record for October precip,but also for ANY month in it's entire period of record,135 years!

  8. "So why has it been so wet? Well, the proximate cause is a persistent area of low pressure over the northeast Pacific, as shown by the the following upper level (500 hPa) anomaly (difference from normal) map for the past month. The purple/dark blue shows a strong negative anomaly (low pressure) just off the NW coast. This feature has brought clouds and precipitation. Why is it there? I can't provide an explanation".

    It's the reverse blob.

  9. Hi,

    As a resident of Bend, I'm curious about why the storms have just blown past the mountains like they have. Not only has it been quite rainy, it's also been very gray.

  10. PSE is buying TV attack ads to stop I -732 because THEY INTEND TO KEEP BURNING FOSSIL FUELS. They are willing to buy our election to ensure they can keep burning fossil fuels. Did you see Leonardio DiCaprio's film Before the Flood last night on National Geographic channel last night? Wake up! We are out of time.

  11. The wide area of record rainfall is significant. It's not restricted to a few stations that got a big rainstorm.

    The rains are too late for many of California's trees. Despite the popularity of zombie films these trees are not coming back to life.


    It's almost Nov 1 and the Arctic ocean off Barrow, Alaska's coast is still open water.


    Temperatures at Barrow are finally predicted to drop into the single digits mid-week. Seawater freezes at 28 F. After the Arctic Ocean refreezes then we can get some cold air down here.

  12. Hi, does anyone know the answer to these simple questions.

    What effect on global temperatures would I732 have?

    If all 50 states enacted a similar law how much would that effect global temperatures?

  13. Personally, I've been enjoying the rain for the most part. I like the description from Stewart Spooner above of the reverse blob.

    Cliff, I posted before about I-732, and you declined to permit my comment through. I hope this time you will consider the factual basis of the opinion in my post and allow it so that both sides can have a fair say in the discussion you started on your website:

    My opinion is I-732 is massively overpriced and badly regressive.

    It only ramps up at an initially steep rate to $25/ton, roughly on par with British Columbia's carbon tax. It does not stay at that level, but continues climbing to a final rate of $100/ton plus inflation adjustments. President Obama and the EPA both say the actual long-term cost of carbon dioxide emissions is $36 per ton.

    The initiative will add in the ballpark of $500 to $1000 in added transportation and heating costs to a typical household. I have not tried to determine how much it will increase food prices, but it is clear it will affect those, too. In low income households, the 1% sales tax decrease doesn't even remotely offset those cost increases, but in very high income households, it does.


  14. "You distrust of government will be the death of us all."

    Thank you for taking off your mask and revealing where your true sympathies lie - how dare anyone not trust their government, how dare they deign to question their alleged betters who only want to help them by taking away their constitutional rights of free expression and dissent. How dare anyone follow the examples of the founders of this country, how dare they not allow unelected officials the power to control every aspect of their lives?

    You are in serious need of some remedial education, for your budding fascism is easy to discern.

  15. @ Roy - that's a reasonable question to ask, but not an easy one to answer. There are models of how much of a temperature increase we should expect for a given amount of CO2 emissions, but the models vary quite a bit. More importantly, it's extremely difficult to assess how much I-732 would reduce CO2 emissions in Washington, and I'm not aware than anyone has done so, much less how a similar law would reduce emissions nationally.

    Furthermore, while the US previously emitted about 28% of all greenhouse gases historically, history isn't affected by I-732, only the future. Currently we emit 16% of the annual global total, and our share of that total is declining. Taking a really rough stab at trying to balance our future emissions against those of other countries combined with past emissions, a complete stop to greenhouse gas emissions by the whole US might reduce the 100 year temperature increase by around 10% compared to the status quo, or for Washington alone, about 0.25%. Of course, I-732 is not expected by anyone to lead to a complete phase out of CO2 emissions, so realistically, some fraction of those numbers would be a fair guess (reduction by 1/2 sounds extremely optimistic, but we could start there for a rough order of magnitude estimate).

    That suggests a similar national law might hold a predicted 2 deg C, year 2100 temperature increase to a 1.9 degree C increase (in other words and units, a 1/5 of a degree Fahrenheit decrease compared to the status quo). Proportionately, I-732 specifically would then hold us to a 1.995 degree C increase (Just under 1/100th of a degree F decrease compared to status quo).


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

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