January 08, 2019

Huge Storm Offshore

A huge, deep midlatitude cyclone is parked off our coast right now, with very strong winds over the Pacific and large easterly flow in the Columbia Gorge, the Strat of Juan de Fuca, and within east-west passes in the Cascades.

The sea level pressure forecast for 1 PM is impressive and huge, with the low center spread over much of the NE Pacific, with a deep 974 hPa low center due west of the CA/OR border.

The latest visible satellite image illustrates the large scale of the storm, a very long cold front, and the cold, unstable air circling into the low center.

The moisture imagery (white showing lots of upper tropospheric water vapor) shows the vast amount of water vapor spiraling into the storm.

This large pressure gradient associated with the storm is producing strong winds over the ocean, with gust forecasts over the ocean show areas reaching 40-70 mph at 1 PM today.

 As the low slowly drift towards us, the strong winds will reach the Oregon/Washington coastline (see gust forecast for 10 AM Wednesday).

A huge, slow-moving storm has strong winds, lots of fetch, and plenty of time for the wind to work on the water.  The result are big waves, something predicted by the NOAA WaveWatch3 system: (9-11 meters high shown by orange colors below)

With a low offshore and higher pressure offshore, local winds are accelerating from east to west in our regional gaps.  For example, winds are quite strong in the Strait of Juan de Fuca (see forecast for 1 PM below).

And easterly winds are accelerating over the western side of the Columbia Gorge:


  1. Will this storm create damaging winds in the Seattle area?

  2. Not exactly on topic, but I'm wondering why the images from GOES-17 are delayed roughly 3 hours?

    Charles Miller

  3. Four wind advisories? Come on! This is getting annoying.

  4. Given the very slow movement of this weather, is this surface storm associated with a cut-off or nearly cut-off low pressure system? It looks like the jet stream has weakened considerably and is in a north-south orientation off the west coast. The jet stream also looks like it has gotten wobbly and lazy and is bringing in cold area to the central U.S. at the same time.

    Will be interested if there is an official declaration of an El Nino tomorrow:


    1. It looks like the active pattern is gonna continue at least in the medium range (CPC is showing above median precip for 6-10 and 8-14 day for our region) so maybe this is just a temporary buckle in the jet stream. It's been very strong since basically November. The last El Nino in 2015-2016 was also wet and stormy but a much stronger El Nino. I keep thinking that we will see more of a ridge dominated pattern but it doesn't look imminent.Maybe February things will calm down.

  5. This post makes it look like the center will come ashore at Crescent City, CA, but the weather forecasts there and elsewhere look ho-hum to me. What am I missing?

  6. Huge storm offshore but no real comment on if it will impact anyone...Weather forecast looks benign so I guess this storm will not be an event for W. Washington?

  7. Placeholder said...

    "This post makes it look like the center will come ashore at Crescent City, CA, but the weather forecasts there and elsewhere look ho-hum to me. What am I missing?"

    As a non-expert, it looks to me that even though this is a large and powerful storm, due the jet stream, its track is north or even a bit west of north, so that it is headed for a landfall north of Vancouver island. Here are 3 interesting places to look to track the storm:


    The SFSU link allows you to see an overlay of satellite images on top of the jet stream. Cape Foulweather on the Oregon coast had winds close to 70 mph, but it is at 1,000 feet and it is called "Cape Foulweather" for good reason.

  8. Looks like Solander Island may again have the privilege of getting the worst of a storm. Gusts already to 74 mph and forecast of possible 80 mph.


  9. Any idea what the really big storm is way out in the pacific?

  10. That “storm” petered out like a day ole 7-up

  11. Looks like we are still not officially in an El Nino with the probability for one occurring through Spring at 65%.


  12. Well this prediction turned out to be a total bust. Proving that weather and climate are large scale chaotic systems that are difficult to predict accurately.

  13. Are we going to get any snow this season in the Puget sound?

    1. Mild in Western Oregon. From Mark Nelson's blog,

      "I live at 1,000′ in the far eastern metro area. This is the first time in at least 14 years that I’ve had no snowfall (at all) through early January. Even in the bad years I have seen at least a half-inch or more by this point. Strange stuff this year."

  14. @Snape, we live at 1,800' in the Columbia Gorge. Typical in our microclimate is ~50 inches a year. (Snowfall amounts vary widely in the Gorge.) Last year was 25-30" but the year before was >100". There's a lot of variation. We're not complaining. There's been plenty of precip, just in the form of rain at lower elevations. The mountains around here are getting plenty of snowpack.


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