Friday, May 18, 2018

Flooding in Eastern Washington, Driest May on Record for Western Washington

If you like dramatic contrasts, Washington State offers a world-class example--and I am not talking about politics.

Over eastern Washington a number of rivers are at flood stage, some reaching record levels.

Thunderstorms and heavy rain have been pummeling the Columbia Basin and northeast WA. The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for several counties including Okanogan, Bonner, Chelan, Ferry and Pend Oreille, and the Kettle River, which flows through Ferry and Stevens counties, had a record high on May 10 of 22.54 feet on May 10, busting the previous record of 21.1 feet in 1948.

In contrast, over the west, many locations have had little precipitation in May, and there is chance Seattle will have its driest May on record.

Not black and white.  But dry and very wet.   But why?  And is spring flooding in eastern WA unusual?

Let's start by checking out the flooding situation, with information from the NOAA/NWS River Forecast Center in Portland (below).  Red dots are floods, blue dots indicated moderate floods, and purple are major floods.  And several other locations are at bank-full.

What is going on?   The combination of a healthy mountain snowpack and warming temperatures, resulting in rapid melting of snow, and the filling of regional rivers.

Here is the snowpack numbers for April 15th, from the very nice SNOTEL web site. Washington, northern Idaho, and Montana had snow-water amounts well about some locations above 150% of what is typical.

And snowpack in British Columbia, from which the Columbia River drains was also very high (see table)

So going into spring with a bountiful spring snowpack was step 1. 

Then a combination of warming temperatures and increasing spring solar radiation caused rapid snowmelt.  The departure of average temperatures from normal (below) shows our temperature anomaly (difference from normal) for the past two weeks, with much of eastern WA and northern Idaho being 6-8F above normal for that period.

So the normal rapid snowmelt of spring was supercharged by warmer than normal temperatures. 

But like a late-night commercial, I should note that there's more.    The weather pattern has produced wetter than normal conditions east of the Cascade crest (and drier than normal to the west)--see map below of the precipitation departure from normal for  5/3-5/16.

During the past few days, showers and thundershowers have moistened eastern Washington (see radar image for 3 PM yesterday), with the last 24-h totals being impressive.  A number of locations in northeast WA have gotten over 1 inch during the last day.

So why wet east of the Cascades and dry west?  Because there has been a persistent ridge of high pressure along the coast, with troughs (low pressure) moving into California and northward into eastern WA and Idaho (see upper level--500 hPa--map for 5 PM Thursday to illustrate.)  The ridge has kept western WA dry, while the transient troughs have initiated thunderstorms east of the Cascade crest.

It is important to note that spring-time flooding in eastern Washington and along the Columbia is the normal state of affairs in our region.  Before the Columbia and Snake River dams were in place, major and often catastrophic flooding was commonplace. 

One of the most famous events was the great snowmelt flood of May 1948.  Just as in this year, regional mountain snowpack was above normal, unusually warm temperatures hit during mid-month, and thunderstorms dampened eastern Washington. Richland flooded and the surge of water moved down the Columbia, inundating and destroying the city of Vanport (near Portland), which was never rebuilt.

As global warming reduces the regional snowpack later during this century, the threats of such springtime flooding should gradually decline over time.


J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bruce Kay said...

J - I think they call that a "prediction".

You know, that little thing that humans do that in the right hands has been responsible for every single material benefit you now enjoy?

The critical and often forgotten factor is "in the right hands", of course.

Alec Corbett said...

Why do we keep getting these persistent ridges of high pressure over the eastern Pacific?

Unknown said...

Where’s your proof that what cliff writes about is false? It goes both ways friend....

jeff said...

Yet another year of above average snowpack. The flooding is directly a result of an early heat wave. I don't see anything special about that.

WeatherOwl said...

J - Why not stop going to any doctor and dentist? All medicine is based on evidence and predictions based on past measurements by a MAJORITY of scientists- not the outliers.. It must be awesome for you to cherry pick science to fit what you heard your fox news gods say. You cant use scientific evidence produced by people who work for special interest like the O&G industry and reprsent less than 1% of all scientists to form any rational opinions. Guess what - all you deniers sure as hell are not going to be around either to be held accountable for your ignorance when the world goes to hell.

Sempervirens206 said...

Does anyone know if they're spilling water over Grand Coulee dam? I'm assuming yes with the high flow. I'm visiting there in a couple weeks and hope to see the spillway wide open. According to USGS a couple spots on lower Columbia are experiencing flow similar to the Mississippi average discharge which is between 500,000 and 600,000 CFS.

sunsnow12 said...

I highly question the 2/100'ths of an inch of rain that Seatac recorded Saturday (5/19) evening. They recorded 2/100ths in the morning, then showed zero precip hourly throughout the evening - still do - here -, then somehow got to 4/100ths for the total day.

This while the UW radar showed moderate to heavy precip over Seatac for 2-3 hours. I know because I watched it. The system was coming directly from the south. A lot of Seattle got drenched. Go back and take a look Cliff - the public can only review it for 8 hours but I imagine you can see it for longer. Tell me if your radar does not show significant precip directly over the South Sound/Seatac extending north for over 2 hours.

If we set/tie a record for "driest May" after the precip last night I think the public has a right to question this. The NWS should review it asap.

Sulla said...

We should thank posters like "J". They help show how bankrupt the "skeptics" are. If they weren't so busy kissing OPEC's posterior they might be able to see things more clearly. And that is what it comes down to. A whole lot of $$$ meant to slow changes in U.S. policy so that fossil fuel industries (domestic and international) can keep raking in $$$ for as long as possible at the highest possible margin. They spend that $$$ to create the J's out there. Many of us remember when concepts like "pollution" were not so political. Nor was global warming at first until certain industries and interests were threatened with policy changes cutting into their margins. At that point it became a game of buying politicians. As things shook out they ended up buying the GOP (not as many Dems were for sale, although there were certainly sellouts there too). And that is where we still are. Thankfully the kids are alright. Even younger generations that identify as conservative think that J is full of it. Cross our fingers we're able to shift course in time.

BAMCIS said...

People troll a weather blog. Really?

For the first commentator:

The evidence for where the climate is headed is based on however long that there has been an interest in understanding what is occurring with our weather. It wasn't too long ago that climate/weather was up to "The gods". Some shaman or thaumaturge would suggest that weather is decided by having a vision to sacrifice a goat or a virgin to the gods to assure a good harvest etc. That was...what? A few millennia ago? Not very far removed considering how long the climate has been around, which is billions of years.

The Sun? We know even less about it since most man made probes that get close enough to observe the Sun intimately tend to also be destroyed by the Sun. The Sun does what the Sun will do. It doesn't have to ask our permission or make the trains run on time. The only conclusions with the solar cycles or anything else concerning the climate is that science has at its disposal some past evidence that hopefully was accurately collected and thus facilitates attempts to derive patterns. Of which then can be used in order to postulate some prediction. There are no 100% assurances when too much is unknown in addition to being subject to just pure random chaos.

Its very akin to trying to "Beat the market", but even Jim Kramer fails at that, in spite of the fact that he is well known and has had some past success. To over use an already over used platitude:

"Past performance does not guarantee future results."

Ultimately it is inappropriate to discount anyone's prediction or try to frame anything in the context of absolutes. Only the reflection upon past data and conclusions derived from that will allow anyone to have that defining moment of clarity. Even then, the conclusion could be dead wrong.

Ellen K said...

I was in the Leavenworth/Lake Wenatchee area this past weekend. They had rain Thursday night into Friday morning, and although we were rainfree where we hiked Friday afternoon through Sunday it rained both Friday and Saturday nights. A few of our fellow campers went home early -they came over to the eastside for a break from the rain but this year it was drier in the west.

Eric Blair said...

"Guess what - all you deniers sure as hell are not going to be around either to be held accountable for your ignorance when the world goes to hell."

Please stop using the nomenclature "deniers." It was a semantic argument dreamed up by the AGW crowd in order to smear anyone who dared to disagree with their assumptions. I won't go into the history of that smear, but to use it in any form is a revealing look into your MO, and to the fallacy of your post.

Bruce Kay said...

Eric - No. Not dissimilar to the whole gamut of Climate change denial fallacies, the old " no one denies that climate changes" holds about as much water as your bladder.

We all know by now, you included, that the term "climate change denier" is a catch all phrase that applies to one who purports a range of opinions on climate, simple none of which aligns with the consensus expertise and all of which can be summarized as rejecting the notion that Anthropogenic climate change poses any substantial risk to humanity as we know it.

It is, in fact, the perfect descriptor for those who prefer their own not particularly skilled opinions over the opinions that are skilled and quite solidly in consensus with their peers, despite all the nuances of argument as to how it will unfold.

This wiki page covers it quite well, unless one prefers to understand the world only as they can make sense of it, ignoring entirely an ability to do so.

christine said...

Sempervirens - you can look at current spill levels by dam here. :

Despite, or because of high flows, they tamped down spill at Grand Coulee where it is not required for improving salmon passage. adult salmon currently go up to Wells dam and into the Okanogan River (sockeye, Chinook, and steelhead)but not above Chief Joseph dam. Due to the high flows and only moderate capacity of the middle Columbia dams (Wells, Rock Island, Rocky Reach, Priest Rapids), the total dissolved gas level is currently at semi-lethal rates. You can see this here. They want the levels to be below 120%:

This past week, they have been seeing high mortality rates of salmon smolts, with symptoms of gas bubble trauma in their fins and eyes.

Eric Blair said...

The term "climate denier" was directly adopted from "Holocaust Denier." Anyone disputing this displays a profound ignorance of the environmental movement's manipulation of language after they realized the public's growing skepticism of their claims. But then again, most people don't defend persons who have been convicted of defrauding public institutions.

Eric Blair said...

Here is the AP confirming the enviros attempting to bully the MSM into using "Denier" instead of skeptics or doubters.

And here is the uber - lefty politico outfit Think Progress echoing this theme:

Simply put, you don't use "Denier" in any climate discussion. Period. Full stop.

Bruce Kay said...

Eric my good man, either you didn't think anyone would bother reading your link or you yourself fail to comprehend the implications of it.

If James Inhofe is a classic example ( he certainly is) and we are to believe that he is to be better framed as a "doubter" or "skeptic" then what are we to make of this entirely accurate statement?

"“It's not like [Inhofe’s] climate-change views are nuanced or well thought out. It's not as if he's found some fundamental flaw with climate science—he just refuses to accept the vast body of existing scientific work,”

He is a denier in that he is in denial of the best knowledge. Similarly a person who can't cope with a diagnosis of terminal cancer will compensate with denial. The term denial has been used for centuries to describe exactly this - the denial of which there is only abundant and substantive evidence that supports it.

A doubter? No Inhofe is no doubter. Doubt implies an ability to believe dependant on evidence. The evidence overwhelmingly exists. He doesn't doubt, he denies.

A Skeptic? He could be but only reliably under one condition - That Inhofe actually possesses the skills to practice skepticism. He doesn't. To the extent that he is skeptical at all, he isn't a reliable skeptic and that is being charitable. The truth is that he couldn't practice skepticism if his life depended on it.

Is the mere use of the term "denier" verboten simply due to the term properly being applied to holocaust deniers?

Only if your powers of logic and reason are entirely captivated by the logical fallacy. A holocaust denier is a true denier. A terminal cancer diagnosis denier is a true denier. A climate change denier is a true denier. They are all deniers of their particular obsession and the fact that one of them is associated with one of the most outrageous crimes against humanity doesn't negate its appropriate semantic use elsewhere.

Get over it. No matter what the conservative apologist newsmagazine The Atlantic says, the wiki page description nails it and it nails you.

So just relax, embrace your real you and go mix yourself a drink

Cliff Mass said...

Bruce... to those who understand the gravity of the Holocaust, the user of the denier label to those who have doubts about some aspect of climate change is deeply disturbing and highly inappropriate. The term climate denier should never be used...cliff

Bruce Kay said...

if that is the case then as I pointed out, the term cannot be used for any case of denialism.

It is nonsensical and a departure from what is to date the accepted semantic use of the term. /if one wanted to draw a direct connection of climate change denial to the holocaust, the English language provides ample opportunity to do so.

No one to my knowledge has. If that is ones suspicion then you can always say so or better yet, ask for clarity but in the absence of that, there is only assumption driven by emotion.

At any rate just the other day I was discussing my own and our familys denialism regarding a health issue, the very example of a terminal cancer diagnosis I spoke of previously.... am I then to assume that there was some derogatory connotation somehow related to an insinuation of holocaust denial? Was I by that nebulous association insinuating an intention of evil or even just a questionable morality?

Well no body mentioned that in that case. We just looked at each other and said 'yeah we were totally in denial"

And we were. Exactly like a holocaust denier or a climate denier.

Denial as an irrationality is a very common feature of any human. We don't do ourselves any favours by denying it , in any case of it.

Bruce Kay said...

OK after mixing a nice drink then sleeping it off, I'm in a more conciliatory mood. How about this then, which I think in the spirit of progresivism is fair:

We henceforth will bend before the winds of moral outrage and strike the semantic meaning of the term "denier" from the lexicon of climate change politics, while preserving it for every other example of denialism of which there are many.

This will at least offer another example of how in the personality measure of "Agreeableness", Liberals score relatively high in the time honoured skill of "getting along to get along", often sacrificing hard earned values and traditions in order to do so.

But there ought to be a reciprocal bone thrown our way, again to be fair, if that is the whole purpose of this little song and dance.

How about then that the repeated claim and grossly inaccurate insinuation of "Cult" is also struck from our language as being needlessly mean and nasty ( and if you actually know the meaning of the term, wholly inaccurate when applied to "science")

But then one might say "what about the rest of the language and semantics that has to date been allowed to be mangled all out of correct usage and recognition purely by way of the majorities tolerance of bull hooey in order to "get along"? Such as:

1) The data has been "manipulated"

2) Its the sun

3) Climate changes all the time

4) its plant food so all OK

5) Climategate

6) There ain't no hockey stick

7) it used to be global cooling

8) it hasn't warmed for decades

9) nothing can be done

10) It is obviously a global conspiracy to monopolize the highly lucrative research grant funding feeding trough

11) I could go on but I'm sure you get the idea

Matt V said...

The idea that the term denier is taboo is new to me and honestly, absurd. As Bruce said there are a million things one can deny and be a denier of. This goes waaaay beyond the realm of cultural sensitivity. Just my 2 cents for this trainwreck.

Eric Blair said...

If you fail to grasp the context, then ask someone who's Jewish, perhaps they can help you out.

Bruce Kay said...

Eric Blair - as per my offer: I assume your latest statement is a refusal of the terms offered.

You wish to retain your right and privilege to use the term "cultist" wherever and whenever you see fit, including to describe those who simply wish to follow the science as the best understanding our our material world.

along with the right and privilege to persist with the usage of the following:

1) The data has been "manipulated"

2) Its the sun

3) Climate changes all the time

4) its plant food so all OK

5) Climategate

6) There ain't no hockey stick

7) it used to be global cooling

8) it hasn't warmed for decades

9) nothing can be done

10) It is obviously a global conspiracy to monopolize the highly lucrative research grant funding feeding trough

11) I could go on but I'm sure you get the idea

Fine then. I'm sure cliff Mass has duly noted your intransigence and will now reconsider the banning of the word "denier" in the description of those. such as yourself, who fall into the well articulated description of "climate change denier" as provided by Wikipedia.

I still think you could benefit from a well mixed drink

J said...

Nasa confirms the last 2 years global temps have gone down by over .5 degrees C. Nothing to see here of course.

John Franklin said...

Given that you feel "denier" can be a trigger word, could you suggest a term that is acceptable to you to use when one is identifying someone who is in denial about the realities of climate change?

Cliff Mass said...

John Franklin,
The term denier is wrong because of its holocaust implications, but wrong in that it is not precise. What are folks "denying"? One aspect of anthropogenic global warming? The impacts claimed by some? Things are much more nuanced. I have been called a denier when I criticize some unfounded claims. Why call folks names in the first place? Scientists have all kinds of takes on global warming, but we don't label each other with pejorative names. So let's drop the labels and names. The Holocaust is a terrible fact. Millions of people died at the hands of the Nazi's. Much of global warming is in the future and there is a lot of uncertainty about the impacts. Why call names?...cliff

John Franklin said...

Thanks, Cliff
The "climate deniers" I was looking to identify - without using an offensive descriptor - are those who would deny that global warming is currently occurring even though NOAA found the last three years to be the warmest on record with 2017 third warmest behind 2016 (warmest) and 2015 (second warmest)in the 138-year climate record. Or how to identify those who dismiss the very visible effects of global warming in the decreases in Arctic sea ice and the bleaching of coral reefs.

There is no need for pejorative terms or name calling but, since you believe "climate denier" should never be used, there is need for an identifier for the subset of people who are either not aware of or unable to recognize the clear trends documented in the climate record.

Gary said...

I think the word we're looking for is "ignorant": lacking education or knowledge; to be unaware of or uninformed. The verb "to ignore" also adds an element of willful avoidance: All through the party it was evident that he was ignoring me.

Without singling out a subset of people with a word like "denier", we could instead talk of a trait or characteristic, such as climate-ignorant, or climate science-ignorant, or global warming-ignorant.

Then there's the perfectly good but unfashionable noun "ignoramus", meaning simply one who is ignorant. The plural "ignoramuses" is probably too many syllables for modern rapid speech. OTOH, the meaning of "climate science ignoramus" would be pretty clear to most people.

"Ignorance" also seems apt for discussing the underlying issue here: Ignorance of AGW will not help us avoid its destructive effects.

Without question, to be called "ignorant" is a put-down, a definite advantage to those who would use that word to say that someone is ignorant about something. At the same time, it leaves little doubt about its meaning--i.e., without knowledge about, or awareness of, or (even) interest in learning about something.

Bruce Kay said...

I find it curious, here on a blog to devoted to science and where we are repeatedly advised to "follow the science" to guide our judgements, that we are now advised to follow a populous sentiment to judge a use of semantics that has a long history and usage in a particular scientific domain that is certainly the equal in legitimacy as climate science.

When it comes to climate science, numerous terms and phrases have been persistently distorted out of their institutionally understood meaning, always justified only by "if thats how it seems to me, that is what it is" and always ignoring the repeated explanations and corrections by those who actually are skilled in the domain. An example would be "manipulated" or "smoothed" in describing data process. Both terms are now solidly sneered with the insinuation (or even over accusation) that those who manipulate or smooth data are inherently unethical, despite the fact that smoothed and manipulated data is endemic in statistical process and generally unavoidable in the bountiful pursuit for our ever higher standard of living.

Such a rejection of institutional semantics may seem innocuous but it is only one element of a pattern. It is an example of a long tradition of a peculiar attitude not exclusive to but certainly quite common in the USA, which is very well documented in Richard Hofstadter's "Anti Intellectualism in American Life" among many others, all well substantiated by scientific process.

When confronted with knowledge, an unfortunate trend is to reject it in favour of one's own ignorance.

Cliff Mass said...

Bruce...using the tern climate denial is unethical, insensitive, ineffective, and wrong...cliff

John Franklin said...

Any attempt to have the word "denial" no longer be used to indicate "the action of declaring something to be untrue" because it is equated with "holocaust denial" by some, will be unsuccessful. Denials occur all the time in response to accusations, credit requests and scoring attempts in sports and people will continue to use the word.
I appreciate your wanting to keep the word off your blog and would like to know your suggestion for what to call those who disavow the documented changes occurring in world's climate.

Bruce Kay said...


To speak of climate change politics yet to forbid the use of the term denier is analogous to discussing the science of climate without involving mention of the sun. Should we also, hypothetically speaking that is, call it the glowing Orb of No Name to assuage the delicate feelings of those who would associate the term "Sun" with the cult of sun worshipers?

The notion is political correctness run amok, to flip the tables on them.

Placeholder said...

I don't buy into the AGW cult, but I don't know of anyone outside of a rubber room who denies that the planetary climate has warmed up somewhat since the end of the Little Ice Age in the mid-19th century. The issue is whether that warming is the result of natural varation or human activity, or a combination, and if a combination that what the mix would be.

Any time anyone claims that "the science is settled" on this or any other question, we know this much: The claimant is ignorant of the scientific method.

The furthest anyone can ever go on the "science is settled" front is to cite a short list of universially accepted scientific facts, along with some widely tested theories, an example being Darwin's theory of the origin of species through adaptation, mutation, and natural selection.

I'm glad that Cliff Mass tolerates Bruce Kay, who is sadly representative of the unscientific AGW alarmist wing that has captured the media and the various "progressive" political voices. Unlike many people who want to suppress error out of fear that it will spread, I take precisely the opposite view. Put foolishness on display, so people can see just how foolish it is.

Cliff Mass said...

Bruce you realize what you said and how revealing it is?
" To speak of climate change politics yet to forbid the use of the term denier is analogous to discussion of climate without the involving mention of the sun"

Why are you so fixated on folks you call deniers? They are a side show. A very, very small side show. The most liberal places full of "believers" can't do much about climate change. The worst carbon users I know are the greatest "believers". You folks are fixated on them. Why? I could speculate...but it is a convenient way to blame others. They are no Nazis!

...I may do a blog on this issue..cliff

Placeholder said...

Cliff, I don't agree with you about global warming, but you are on a very short list of people on "the other side" whose views I respect. You are honest and careful, and you are willing to call out the rampant overstatements among those who think AGW is a problem.

I am a believer in the scientific method, which is fundamentally a way of observing and explaining the natural world. Science should never be treated as a priesthood, but should be seen in its true light.

If the evidence is there, and can pass the tests embedded in the scientific method, I will change my mind. What I have seen thus far gives me little confidence in the AGW hypothesis; in my view, its adherents made a major error from the get-go, by overlooking T.C. Chamberlain's advice about multiple working hypotheses.

In my opinion, the "consensus" thinkers coalesced around AGW too quickly, and have been stuck for 20 or more years defending a deeply flawed hypothesis. It isn't the first time that's happened within academic science, and it won't be the last. But keep working on it in your way, and know that you have the attention of at least one person who can always change his mind.

Bruce Kay said...

I have long suggested you do do a blog on the subject, for the obvious reasons stated.

For now, I'll reply to your question, which is far better than speculating as you note. I am not "fixated" if you imply that that equates with obsessed. I am fixated in the sense of persisting because of two things I have repeatedly - without substantive criticism yet - pointed out:

1) Denial is actually, to varying degrees, a significant behaviour of us all, not just the "side show". It is a pretty routine coping mechanism. While there are extreme cases (James Inhofe as an example) we will all, if so biased, take his lead and assume the same attitude even if we are not inclined to his level of showmanship The "side show" is nothing more than a less inhibited performance of an attitude that is endemic in a very large proportion of the population.

2) While the first point is statistically debatable, what isn't is that the language used in the context of the social and psychology sciences is traditional and without controversy. Again I can only add that I have stated as much repeatedly and have yet to receive a direct rebuttal of any kind, let alone a substantive one. Behaviour that is denial should be identified as denial. To deny this is to deny the lexicon of the science. To leap to the assumption of moral association with holocaust denial implies directly that every act of denial is tarred with the same brush - a truly preposterous claim.

At any rate, I wasn't kidding when I said if you can think up another term that is equal to the task, fire away. I also wasn't kidding that the personality trait of "agreeableness" has a lot to do with that willingness to bend to the the wind. To that extent I am not "fixated" at all, but I do insist that the term is appropriately descriptive of the actual behaviour, not the whitewashing of it.

Placeholder said...

Incidentally, AGW is not only not "settled science," to call it a "scientific fact" as many of the cultists do is an example of willful, profound, laughable, and intellectually insulting ignorance on display. In science, "facts" are objective observations that have been repeatedly and independently verified. They are simple, such as "the boiling point of water at sea level is 212 degrees Fahrenheit."

AGW doesn't even qualify as a theory, which is a well-substaniated explanation of an aspect of the natural world that has survived multiple independent tests. AGW is best described as a hypothesis, which is a tentative statement about the natural world leading to deductions that can be tested.

The outstandish overstatements and misrepresentations of the AGW hypothesis should give pause to everyone, even those inclined to accept the hypothesis. In my opinion thus far, we have seen a cult-like political movement based on a hypothesis, and nothing whatsoever more than that.