January 03, 2019

Forget El Nino, StormFest is about to Hit the West Coast

Things often calm down after January 1 during El Nino years....but not this year...with the U.S. West Coast from central California to Washington State about to be pummeled by a series of storms.   Rain, snow, wind?  Plenty for everyone.

A view of the latest infrared satellite imagery shows an amazing line-up of one storm after another stretching way into the Pacific.  A traffic jam of storms.

Let's examine our stormy future, using a series of sea level pressure forecasts from the UW WRF weather forecast models (solid lines are sea level pressure, shading in lower atmosphere temperature).

At 10 PM today, a  strong low is just off the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

10AM Saturday brings an energetic low center into northern CA.

10 PM Sunday?   Another storm hits central Oregon!  And another system is in the wings.

That storm is right off our coast late Wednesday.

El Nino late winters generally have less action---not so this year!   

What about precipitation you ask?   Do you really want to know?  The accumulated total through 4 AM next Thursday is impressive, with 5-10 inches over many mountain areas and even 10-20 inches over parts of northern CA, the Olympics and southern BC.

Snow?   There will be abundant amounts.   For example, here is the accumulated snowfall for the 72 hours ending 4 PM Wednesday.  2-3 feet for the high terrain from the central Sierra Nevada to southern BC.  Our winter ski season is secure.

Wind?  You bet.  Each of these storms will bring strong, damaging winds to a favored area of the coastal zone and mountain peaks.  

There is a silver lining of all this action of course:  it will provide an immense amount of water to fill our reservoirs and enhance our snowpack, a snowpack that is now in pretty decent shape (see latest summary below).  Water resources should be fine next summer.

But all these facts on the ground and favorable forecasts don't stop some of Seattle's wacky local media from talking about drought for our region, with the Seattle Stranger being one of the worst (see below).  Facts should matter---apparently not at the Stranger.


  1. The strange Stranger/Mass beef continues. This particular instance is a story that the stranger linked from the Seattle Times, and the key quote about drought concerns comes from the Washington State Department of ecology drought coordinator Jeff Marti.

  2. I’m ready for spring. Basement keeps flooding at work. What’s with all these clouds, and the sun? Like it barely lifts off before it drags and sinks? Grades barely an “E” for effort. Thinks soft sun, dandelions. Robins?? Wow

  3. Winter rain = Summer fire

    I believe that was last winter, when the Orville dam was failing, with so much precipitation in Northern CA, and the following dry season produced the Camp fire.

    Winter rain = summer fire..

    I don't get this drought thing? Are so many people transplants, that don't realize a wet winter's and dry summers are normal for our region?

    Cliff, maybe do another review on the long term averages for winter wetness and summer dryness.

    Maybe the reality of not too abnormal of a pattern, will sink in with a few more people.

    1. Orville dam failed 2 years ago, I believe Norcal had average rainfall last year

  4. Over the last 30 years precip has increased here. Since the 70's snowpack has increased in the Cascades. Water managers have used increasingly accurate technology to manage the resource - 14/15 is a great example of that.

    And yet every year it is the same. Drought. We heard it this fall (while the Cascades were drenched), just like last fall, and the fall before that etc. etc. Go back to 15/16. Anyone who watched that joke (it's a wet-drought!) unfold knows exactly what Cliff is talking about, and kudos to him for being one of the only sane voices on the subject.

    Seattle water supply is done for this year. It would take unprecedented dryness to change that. If this storm comes to fruition watch for another major managed outflow from our reservoirs.

    Whatever happened to truth... and why isn't that reported (particularly the exceptional job our water managers do) instead of the constant fear-mongering that is so pervasive on this subject? There is a lot of good news here - how about if we hear that for a change?

    1. You got it.The media just loves sensationalism and the left wing publications like to follow their climate change/sky is falling narrative. They need extreme weather events to prove their point and when we get normal weather they still call it a drought! Luckily most people aren't that dumb to believe it. Even in drier than normal winters around here they're still not really a "drought". The last true winter drought was a really long time ago. Way back in 2000-2001. And a wet spring and summer in 2001 quickly solved that problem. Sure we had a drought in 2015 in early summer but if I recall we had normal summer rainfall overall because in late August we had several days of heavy rain.

  5. Lets hope the skiers in my area, including myself, learned a lesson from our two skier triggered avalanches that occurred on Dec 30th. Fierce winds near the Crest at Washington Pass created a lot of wind slab in that area.

    The incidents both occurred in an area locals call "portly basin".

    On Jan 1st, I went back to that same area with the person who triggered the first Avalanche to hear the story,to learn the lesson of this avalanche and of course the ski some fine snow with friends.

    The first avalanche was triggered off of a SSE facing ridge when the skier tested the slope with his weight, stepping off the ridge on to the steep snow slope. The Avalanche ran from the tip of his ski and sympathetically triggered several other slabs off of terrain features on his way down around 800 to 1000 vertical feet. That one could have been fatal if the skier had not tested the slope before committing to the ski descent.

    The second skier triggered Avalanche would be considered a near-miss Avalanche incident because of a skier actually took a ride in that slide and lived to tell the story.

    Apparently that group, one of five groups in the same area that day, was the last group to follow the skin track and took notice of the first Avalanche.

    From what I saw, their skin track veered climbers left off the main skin track and traversed below the steepest part of the ridge nose, which was very noticeably heavily wind loaded even 2 days after the storm.

    The person that triggered that Avalanche reported to nwac that:

    "the first member of our party of 5 triggered a large avalanche on a similar aspect at 6500 ft while traversing with skins on. The avalanche was estimated to be 75 ft wide and ran 400-500 ft vertical and broke near the ridge about 75 ft above him. The slide released on layer of 5-6 mm buried surface hoar at a depth of 2 feet in this wind-loaded location."

    There were 16 people in the same area during a wind loading storm event. Whether you know it or not your decision making is influenced when there's that many people desiring to make multiple ski descents in the same Avalanche terrain. These are called human factor influences. (See skier related heuristic traps)

    Chris H
    Heli-free North Cascades

  6. Part 2

    It's always good to see that no one was hurt and that this near-miss accident was reported to the public so the lessons could be learned and warnings issued.

    One of the reasons why I was a controversial figure at he turns all year forum was for exposing commercial guide related near Miss Avalanche incidents, their reluctance to report those to the public and the reasons why.

    A local guide told once told me to keep quiet about her heli-guide bosses near miss Avy incident where he triggered a Ridge top wind slab avalanche and went for a ride that up wound up burying him with only his hand sticking above the snow. Shetold me it was bad for business to report it to the public. However I believe the public has a right to know the safety records of those they are seeking to employ for guide services.

    This reminds me of my own Avalanche incident concerning a wind slab, which I wrote about on TAY (now deleted along with the rest of my posts by an apparently disgruntled Marcus figure).

    In that incident I popped out of a tree line into a clear-cut logging area right in to funnel shaped gully.

    I thought for a moment that was a beautiful ski line that I stumbled upon and then the habit of my brain kicked in warning me that this was Avalanche terrai. It was on an aspect that we had already determined the 10" of new snow had poor bonding to the old wind polished solar crust. I started to ski off towards the side of the gully.

    As I was doing so, I noticed a crack in the snow propagating around me. I was able to ski off of that wind slab before it broke up completely, undoubtedly saving my life.

    The Avalanche ran about 300 to 400 vertical feet but it exposed many logged stumps and resulted in an 8-foot deep debris pile. This was a terrain trap.

    There's no shame in getting caught in an avalanche. However not reporting one due self-interest gain is questionable Behavior.

    The group that reported their recent avalanche near miss to the public performed a great public service.

    Isn't that standard for accurate reporting our is ethical duty?

    Does self-interest gain outweigh the interest of public safety?

    Chris H.
    Heli-free North Cascades

  7. This just in:


    The summary - global temps have more or less plateaued since 1998. Naturally, the MSM has completely ignored this finding, instead screeching ad nauseum about one of the years "being the hottest on record since blah, blah, blah." Facts be damned, just as long as it serves the narrative. Pravda is more trustworthy.

  8. I wish we'd get some snow in the Puget Sound.

  9. sunsnow, I think the answer to why we keep getting these scary but incorrect stories is the constant search for clicks by journalists. Nothing sells like "its worse than we thought."

  10. Ahem, looks like UW's model is showing low land snow chances for early next week, Sunday night into Monday and Tuesday afternoon. Are the models thinking these storms will pull some of that arctic air from internal BC down for a brief bought of snow?

  11. sunsnow12 said...

    "Over the last 30 years precip has increased here. Since the 70's snowpack has increased in the Cascades."

    Not sure where you get your information on snowpack. For the period from 1926 to the present, the only Washington sites showing any April 1 SWE increase (none of which are statistically significant) are those over 4,000 feet in elevation. All the others show decreases, most of which are significant.


    For the period 1970 to the present, the result is very similar:


    There are numerous research sources confirming this:



  12. Our winter wet-summer dry climate IS typical but may becoming more extreme. The Clearbrook weather station (Station Index 45-1484 at N48'58", W122'20", https://rodericperry.weebly.com/), with precipitation data for 113 years in north- central Whatcom County has a 113 year average annual precipitation of 47 inches with 8.67 inches average between June 1 and September 30 (dry season). Over the last 11 years, the average dry season has been 7.79 inches.

  13. Eric Blair said...

    "This just in:

    "[Reference to University of Alabama at Huntsville satellite temperature data]

    "The summary - global temps have more or less plateaued since 1998. Naturally, the MSM has completely ignored this finding, instead screeching ad nauseum about one of the years "being the hottest on record since blah, blah, blah." Facts be damned, just as long as it serves the narrative. Pravda is more trustworthy."

    Yes, facts are important. Unfortunately, your reference all comes from indirect temperature data from satellites, which has only been available since the late 1970's. It is not the MSM that do not accept the UAH satellite temperature anlaysis - it is the Main Stream Scientific Community. In spite of what Senator Ted Cruz says, using satellites to measure surface temperatures is not the best way to do it. These types of measurements have numerous problems. As stated in the National Climate Assessment:

    "For short periods of time, from a few years to a decade or so, the increase in global temperature can be temporarily slowed or even reversed by natural variability (see Box 2.1). Over the past decade, such a slowdown led to numerous assertions that global warming had stopped. No temperature records, however, show that long-term global warming has ceased or even substantially slowed over the past decade.[citations] Instead, global annual average temperatures for the period since 1986 are likely much higher and appear to have risen at a more rapid rate than for any similar climatological (20–30 year) time period in at least the last 1,700 years. [citations] * * * [t}housands of studies conducted by researchers around the world have documented increases in temperature at Earth’s surface, as well as in the atmosphere and oceans."


  14. Mac - I didn't say 1926. I said the 70's, and my source is Cliff Mass:

    March 15, 2018: http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2018/03/is-western-us-snowpack-declining.html

    "Now a completely independent analysis of long-term snowpack trends over the Northwest U.S. is found in a peer-reviewed paper in the Journal of Climate (A New Look at Snowpack Trends in the Cascade Mountains by Stoelinga et al...found here). They used a statistical approach to secure the snowpack from temperature, precipitation, and streamflow instead of the physical model (VIC) mentioned above. But the same general idea. Their results for 1930 to 2007 are quite similar to those found in the Mote et al (2018) paper, with a 23% decline for the entire period, and increasing snowpack since 1975. I repeat, increasing."

    For 40+ years, Cascade snowpack has been trending higher... and that does not include 2018 which by the end of April was far above average, so tack on another positive data point.

    And... since we're talking about good news, here is more: a post from Cliff from May 25, 2016, talking about how spring melt-out dates are also trending positive (i.e. later) - http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2016/05/stevens-pass-melt-out.html

    More good news: we have exceptionally talented statewide water managers and - for Seattle - a huge watershed and storage. We can thank our founders for that vision.

    The constant negativity - while the exact opposite is happening - is not healthy. Let's discuss all of these important issues, but let's do it with a positive outlook - especially when the data is pointing in that direction.

  15. Set aside climate change, one compelling argument to stop burning fossil fuels is epidemic lung cancer! You might not think burning fossil fuels causes (or accelerates) climate change but you can't deny that it helps cause cancer and other diseases on massive scale.

  16. Zoe - the temperate maritime climate here, right down at sea level, sees very little snow. It only takes a trace of snow to paralyze the entire region!

  17. Organic Farmer wrote "Are so many people transplants, that don't realize a wet winter's and dry summers are normal for our region?"

    Summers in Whatcom County certainly appear to be drier over the last decade compared to long-term average. It might be a cycle or a long-term trend, but the 113 year record for precipitation in Clearbrook is 8.67 inches June through September. Over the last 12 years the average has been 7.79 inches, or 10% less. The Clearbrook weather site is a great one because it is not located with development or widspread land use change has occurred nearby and it has recorded data for a long time for state weather records. https://rodericperry.weebly.com/

    Sorry I cannot give you a link to the original data forms with NOAA, but, you know, government shutdown and all...check out Mr. POerry's weather links.

    1. A majoriyy, acreage wise, of Whatcom countC lies east of Clearbrook. If you look.at precipitation for Glacier, the data may be different. I will look for that data.

  18. The UW snow forecast model you shared seems to show a decent chance of lowland snow next week, which I have been watching on the GFS for a few days now. Seems to be consistent over the past few days too, with the snowfall event landing sometime around the 6th, 7th, or 8th. Lets hope we get some snow!

  19. If it’s not obvious to everyone by now that Weather and Climate hysteria are simply a cudgel for Progressives to implement Socialism and Wealth redistribution, then you are not paying attention.

  20. What about temperatures east of the Cascades? Where I live in the Columbia Gorge, a typical winter brings 40 or 50 inches of snow. Last year was only about 25 inches, but the year before was more than 100 inches. This year, we have had plenty of moisture but almost all of it in the form of rain. We've had a total of about 6 inches of snow, with about 3 inches right before Christmas, which was nice.

    I'm not complaining, nor was this unexpected. Other forecasters predicted a warm winter with average precipitation. Cliff, will these storms bring snow to the lower elevations east of the mountains, or will it be rain?

    As for the climate change angle, we can rest assured that no matter what happens, the cult will blame it on global warming -- even if it's a run-of-the-mill season. Ringing false alarms is what they do. But Cliff, how about the weather east of the mountains? Any predictions on what form that moisture will take once it gets over here?

  21. More info on just how far off the rails Democrats are willing to go. This makes Macron’s plan in France look quaint by comparison. Expect a massive resistance: https://news.grabien.com/story-ocasio-cortezs-green-new-deal-radical-mandate-government-con

    1. Jeff
      Her plan probably goes too far, but capitalism is far from perfect,
      "Economic system that aims to make the best products for the lowest amount of money which often leads to exploitation of workers."

  22. I would like to see a study that compared the snowpack trends at 5500' to those at lower elevations, let's say 3500' - 4000'. They might be moving in different directions!

    Here's a comparison of two locations on Mt. Hood:

    During two winters, the higher location (Meadows, 5400') had significantly more snow than usual, while the lower area (Government camp, 4000') had significantly less than usual.

  23. Quick fix:
    At higher elevation two seasons were normal, two slightly above average, one way above average.

    At lower elevation all seasons were below average.

  24. Here’s WSDOT data for 1949-2018 that shows pretty clearly that snowfall totals are consistently decreasing.

  25. It's so great to know the when, where, what to expect from weather this time of year, Cliff.

    Ii can better plan my life and activities. We're fortunate to have access to your knowledge and experience. Keep up the good work.

  26. Sunsnow
    The data studied in the Stoelinga paper ended 12 years ago. What did Cliff say about the past 40 years? "No decline, dramatic or otherwise is apparent."

    That's different than "trending higher", as you claimed.

    Also worth mentioning, the Stoelinga paper found a 5% decrease in snowpack when adjusted for PDO (1976-2007).

  27. For Snape and and Sunsnow12, I already posted a link on SWE above for the period 1970 to the present showing decreasing snowpack. Only 4 sites above 4,000 show a non-significant increase. Look for yourself.


    For Placeholder, this link will show temperature increases for the entire Northwest since 1929. The Columbia Gorge shows significant increases throughout the gorge.


    1. MAC
      Thanks for the link. I've been fiddling around with it on my iPhone but having a little trouble. Will try a different device.

      You chose a beautiful town to retire in. I visited Bellingham two summers ago and had a great time - despite the smoke. Rented a bike from Fairhaven bike shop and peddled all over the place.

  28. 49MPH gust around 9PM last night in NW Bellingham

  29. The Stormsurf dude indicated on his last video that El Nino is pretty darn weak.

    1. gnolan

      I'm familiar with the Stormsurf ENSO page but have never seen any of the dude's videos......lol.

      A small but potent wind anomaly is in the forecast (bottom,center), so I'm guessing El Niño may gain some strength in coming weeks:


  30. Cliff, I think your being a little hard on the Stranger, as they are just reporting on what the state climatology office is saying about the long term forecast for 2019 and the concern this raises for possible drought(as linked to in the Seattle Times article). It's great that our recent and future predicated storms are alleviating these concerns, but we have a lot of 2019 still to go.

  31. @jsowers, the Stranger is a pathetic joke. It's even more pathetic that they have any influence in Seattle. But they do, because Seattle's "progressives" are as uneducated as they are arrogant

  32. Mac, Snape: What part about this statement from Cliff is not clear?: "...and increasing snowpack since 1975. I repeat, increasing." He even bolded that last sentence.

    At the link I posted, Cliff presented the data, and the graph that proves this.

    We get it. You disagree with his conclusions. You want to point out negatives and tie them back to AGW. That is your prerogative, this is an open discussion board.

    My point is simply this: there is a lot of positive news out there - on multiple fronts - we are not hearing.

  33. Dr. Mass has frequently mentioned, including on today's radio broadcast, that we are in a weak El Nino condition. However, none of the ENSO state that. I understand that the next ENSO assessment will happen on January 10. Perhaps Dr. Mass has some preliminary data from some of his colleagues.

    Here is an interesting set of graphs depicting how warm Seattle has been in the last 12 months. It is interesting that we have experienced this even though we have been in a La Nina or neutral condition for much of the time.


    Portland shows similar results. Here is a link for various cities:


  34. Well, in amongst the opinions and facts, be aware that the philistine gravitite stone on a string here at the strictly unofficial Bow station is hanging straight down after a few times of wiggle up to maybe 18 degrees from vertical. It is also currently dry.

  35. Has everybody heard this brain teaser? If not, lots of fun (hat tip to Roy Spencer):

    "Suppose you're on a game show, and you're given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No.1 (but you aren't shown what's behind it), and the host opens one of the remaining two doors, let's say No.3, which has a goat.

    He then says to you, "Do you want to switch to door No.2 or stay with door No.1?"

    Is it to your advantage to switch or stay?
    (You can assume the host knows which door is hiding the goat)

  36. n old pre-Climate Change model. Good on you Cliff Mass proving once again that science and scientists can be self-critical and improve through practice. Do not fear the critic. => ireallyappreciatescience.com - “StormFest hits Town… Forget El Niño.” – Prof. Dr. Cliff Mass


  37. Snape,

    You should summarize your own opinions, based on the science and data before you.

    Prof. Dr. Cliff Mass has given up on El Nino, not because of pressure. Not because of politics, but because he has critiques himself and his colleagues science. None of what he sees is El Nino. If you want to talk politics, go to a blog on Political Science. If you wish to talk "Capitalism" as you have a proclivity to do, go to a blog on Political Economy.

    Who are you Snape? Do you know? I am Dr. Kenneth M. Beck on Google Scholar.

  38. @Snape, the Seattle "progressive" will pick the goat so he can call it a car and blame it for global warming.

  39. @MAC
    Thanks for the great link. I've been fiddling around with it on my iPhone but may need to use a bigger device.

    Stormsurf is showing some fairly impressive wind anomalies so I'm betting the El Niño will pick up a little:

    @Dr. Beck
    I don't understand. Did I say something about El Niños that you disagree with?
    And why do you think one comment equals a proclivity for talking about politics?

  40. Sunsnow
    You need to take a closer look at the link. Cliff was referring to the Stoelinga study, which found evidence of increasing snowpack 1976-2007.


    He did not show evidence of increasing snowpack 1976 to present.

  41. Thanks Cliff.

    ~ ~ ~
    RE: sunsnow12
    Recently, research has been done and may still be in progress regarding spring snow melt. [CWU geological sciences]
    In some areas on the east Cascade slopes there have been big wild fires. These produce much soot that lands in the trees. It takes up to 3 years for this dark matter to be blown out. Meanwhile, some blows out of the trees and onto the snow. The reduced albedo causes an early melt.
    After the ~3 years the system reverts.
    Trying to incorporate this into a state-wide model will be a Herculean task.

    Meanwhile, official State understanding seems to be region wide less snow and early melt, so less late season run-off.
    Clearly, this requires a "carbon" tax.
    Note to Gov. Inslee: The climate doesn't care.

  42. Charles Primm said...
    Set aside climate change, one compelling argument to stop burning fossil fuels is epidemic lung cancer! You might not think burning fossil fuels causes (or accelerates) climate change but you can't deny that it helps cause cancer and other diseases on massive scale.

    And how does this explain the longer life expectancy in those nations where carbon based fuel has been used extensively?
    Sorry Charles, but I find your statement, especially "epidemic lung cancer" to be inconsistent with facts.

  43. Snape good catch on protecting those exploited workers under Capitalism. Because of course no one has ever been exploited under Tribalism, Monarchy, Dictatorship, Theocracy, Socialism or Communism.

  44. Microburst damage 3 am Sunday morning at Skagit regional airport. https://www.goskagit.com/news/local_news/skagit-airport-sustains-damage-in-sunday-weather-event/article_33b51f2f-3964-5d7c-8bc2-0376642758aa.html


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

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