April 15, 2018

Localized Deluge

News flash:  It is 9 AM on Sunday and it should be generally dry for the next 4-5 hours.  Immediate response necessary (e.g., go outside).    There are a few residual showers, some of which are producing rainbows (see 9AM Seattle SpaceNeedle panocam).  Note the blue skies.

Yesterday was an amazingly wet day for April, and a "highlight" of one of the wettest Aprils on record.   A number of locations (like Seattle) had their wettest April 14th on record and April is now the 4th wettest on record and WE ARE ONLY THROUGH HALF THE MONTH.

The rain distribution yesterday was interesting, with the heaviest precipitation found in a southwest-northeast band from SW Washington across Seattle and into the central Cascades. 

Here are the 24h totals ending 11 PM Saturday (only showing the locations with at least 1.5 inches).   1-5-2 inches over Seattle, but 3-5 inches over SW Washington and nearly 5 inches on the western side of the Cascades NE of Seattle.  8 inches near Mt. Rainier.

The heaviest rain was during the late afternoon and early evening when local streets started to flood.

A radar-based estimate of 48-h rainfall ending 11 PM Saturday show the band of heavy precipitation across central Puget Sound, with 2-4 inches being prevalent.  And you will also notice the rainshadow over NW Washington--those lucky folks from Sequim and Port Townsend to Bellingham.

What was going on?   A relatively narrow atmospheric river of moisture that sat over us for over 12 hours.    You can see the culprit in an infrared satellite picture at 11 AM Saturday (below).

A plot of the moisture content of the atmosphere at 11 AM yesterday shows the feature, with the orange and red colors indicating high values of total moisture in the atmosphere.  Heading right towards us.

Another very useful tool can be created by multiplying the moisture content by the wind...something called Integrated Vapor Transport (IVT).   That is what really controls how much rain we get on our mountains.  IVT at the same time (11 AM) as above  shows significant values moving off the Pacific, with an configuration matching the heavy rainfall.

The forecast for the next 24 hours?  Good news for sodden Washington, bad news for Oregon.  The accumulation from 5 AM Sunday to 5 AM Monday indicates lots of rain in Oregon and northern CA, which is excellent--they need more water down there.  Washington has enough.  More than enough. Our snowpack is above normal.  Our reservoirs are full.  Our rivers are running high.  Our soil moisture is high.

I am heading outside for a run with my dog while I have a chance.


  1. So...the atmospheric river was really THIS weekend?

  2. It was sunny in Bow! I mowed!

  3. Are the recent heavy rains, flooding, and mud slides on Kauai linked to our "wet" spring in any way. Hanalei reported 24" of rain in 24 hours recently. Here's a link that describes the situation on Kauai. http://www.thegardenisland.com/2018/04/16/hawaii-news/flooding-of-epic-proportions-homes-destroyed-roads-closed-many-rescued/

  4. Weren't we just discussing how there has been no increase in precipitation? I know, this is weather not climate but consider: wildfires in Oklahoma, blizzards in midwest, tornadoes in the southeast, record breaking rain in Hawaii and the Northwest just this week and temperature swings from 99 degrees to snow in one day in Oklahoma, massive atmospheric rivers in California, tornadoes in the upper Midwest in the winter, crippling snow storms in the East, snow in the Sahara, record breaking heatwave in Australia (fried bats in their perches) and South America, record high temperatures in the West, record breaking rain in China, record breaking cyclonic storms and cold hitting Europe, multiple cyclonic bombs on the East Coast of the US just this year. It seems to me that the weather has seen significant destabilization the last few years. Consider; how many times have blogs started with "unprecedented weather" in the last few years?

  5. I'm curious to hear your perspective on the rains on Kauai as well. I heard that they had 28"in the rain gauge over a period of 24 hrs. in Hanalei before the gauge broke.

  6. We had all day rain yesterday in the San Juans. Probably an inch. I've never seen it so wet here in April. Also, on Sunday when no craft warnings were forecast we had high winds in the Bellingham channel an some of the roughest seas I've ever seen here. I think it was a very localized freak wind event, but it made the channel crossing by boat quite memorable.

  7. Localized 24" downpour in Hawaii http://amp.civilbeat.org/2018/04/heres-why-the-weather-experts-didnt-see-the-kauai-storm-coming/


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

Lightning Returns to the Pacific Northwest

 Lots of thunderstorms, some approaching severe levels, have hit eastern Oregon and Washington during the past day.....and there are severe ...