March 30, 2017

A Beautiful Day on Friday After One of the Worst Winters in Years

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The complaints have been non-stop, with even Northwest natives mumbling about one of the most persistently wet, cool, cloudy winters they can remember.

But tomorrow (Friday) will be better, with a transient ridge of high pressure over us, bringing dry conditions and temperatures rising in the upper 50s F.

Here is the surface air temperature forecast for 5 PM Friday from the high-resolution UW WRF model. The dark orange (over Seattle) indicates 56-60F, with 60s in eastern WA and parts of southwest Washington.    I am looking for my sunglasses tonight.

But a single beautiful day does not make up for a challenging winter.  Before I describe it, did you you know that SmartAsset real estate site has ranked Seattle as having the most depressing winters of any major city in the lower-48 states?  This is based on the percentage of a sunshine rate and average solar radiation (see below).  Only far north Anchorage is worse for the U.S. as a whole.

So I guess we start with low expectations.  But this winter takes it one step further.  Here is the number of days during the past six months with at least a trace of rain.  115-145 out of 180 in western Washington/Oregon were wet.

But the real depressing aspect of this winter is the continuation of the clouds and rain into late February and March, when major improvement is normally observed.   Here are the number of days during the past 60 days with some rain.  OMG... large swaths have had 50-55 days of rain out of 60 days (83-92%).   This is way more than normal (typically in March in Seattle 55% days have some rain).  MUCH worse than typical.

One of the faculty in my department, Dale Durran, has a solar array on his house. This March had far less power output than any of the five years the system was in place.

All the moisture and clouds has resulted in very wet soils, something shown by the NASA GRACE instrument that can measure soil moisture from space (below).  Blue is highly saturated.  My backyard is a mud pit now.
Our future?  Some showers on Saturday, mostly dry on Sunday, warming into Tuesday.  But the moisture returns, with the Climate Prediction Center's 6-10 day precipitation forecast covering our areas with the wet green colors.  Sorry.


  1. Worst winter? This was a fantastic winter for skiers. I'll take another one just like it next year, please. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  2. Agree with Carl. This was a great winter. Not a part of the "warmer is better" mentality.
    Worse is temp inversions / burn bans / air quality warnings / no snowpack / pineapple express / record high temps.
    Light cold rain, snow in the mts, is preferable. I loved it.

  3. Carl- But for those of us who like the sun- or even who like variety- it has been tough. And may this be the end of it! I am looking forward to my warm-weather sports which are much more numerous: Swimming, sailing, hiking, biking, climbing, gardening...

  4. Their definition of "most depressing" doesn't match mine. I grew up north of Chicago along the shores of Lake Michigan, and that was depressing. Incredible amounts of lake-effect snow that you ran out of places to put by winter's end. Icy wind off the lake that cut through any clothing. Stayed below freezing seemingly forever. Then snow all melts at once and creates a Spring mud bog that lasts a month or so.

    Then there's Minnesota. The Dakotas. Not to forget Buffalo, NY.

    Our gray skies and rain with highs mostly in 40's? Absolute heaven compared to those places in winter. Plus we have serious mountains so we can but the stuff to good use under our skis.

    I guess one man's heaven is another man's hell.

  5. "Beautiful day"? Again, beauty must really be in the eye of 9f the beholder, because today at least as far as I can see it's been mainly overcast, and the local (at 135th and Aurora Ave) outside temperature as of right now at 445pm is only 51F. How is that any different or better?

  6. Interesting. At the Admiralty inlet, it is radically drier than last year this time. We never had water in our pond this year, while the last two years saw water. (Epic water last winter!) I have been able to work all but one field, this year. Nice and dry.

    It is quite normal at my location, heavy rain shadow as of late. No convergence zone downpours. Dry compared to last year. With that said, it has been Misty, windy, very dark and very very cool. At least a month behind the last several years with spring.

    Long Winter!! Yuck...

  7. It was a great winter!! Would say the only disappointing part was December when it was sub freezing most of the month but we couldn't get any moisture. Sun in the wintertime is just pure depressing.

  8. As a skier I loved the winter. I do live on the east side but it has still been very cloudy and wet. My main concern is that we are going pay for this at some point when the weather reverts to the mean.

  9. It was my 67th winter. Seemed normal enough, just a lot more of it. We didn't get our February respite or our false spring in March

  10. Cliff - how long before we string a week of 60 degree days together, any stats?

  11. it's been a terrible winter, and colder is worse, especially when combined with overcast and rain for months. I need a little sunshine every once in awhile or even just a straight up overcast day with no rain for God's sake. I don't mind 'light rain' but it's been heavy and blowing in my face while going to work. Unpleasant.

    I like rain when it's misting not pouring.

    Spring in the northwest is fantastic. Glad to see some flowers and a little more variety, some wild large day/night temperature shifts. I don't mind the rain coming back, just not for months on end. I hope we have an interesting spring, not just a cold, windy rainy one, a continuation of the winter pattern. Enough is enough, I say!

  12. I liked it, it was fun. Seems right that it would be rainy here in the winter.. the rains probably Seattle's best defense from debilitating overcrowding. We may have already crossed that line though.

  13. Cliff, interested to hear your thoughts on El NiƱo's return and what it means for us.

  14. Loved this winter! Rarely freezing, no lasting snow messing up my commute. The rain and the clouds are what I love most about the PNW. I love spring time too, but there is always the dread that summer is right around the corner now, which I loathe. Ah well, enjoy the better weather Cliff, and I'll start looking forward to next winter!


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