March 03, 2019

Finally! Near Normal Highs in Western Washington, While Eastern WA Remains in the Freezer

In football, there is some discussion of a two-level defense.   Well, western Washington has a two-level defense against cold air, and this protection was fully in place this morning.

Here are the minimum temperatures during the past 12 hours (click to expand).   Upper 20s and 30s in western WA.  Single digits in eastern WA, and -30 to -40 F in central and eastern Montana.  You read that right...many locations east of the Rockies were below minus 30F this morning.

Perhaps a better way to see this (and certainly more colorful) is a plot of the temperatures forecast at 4 AM around 2500 ft above sea level this morning by the UW WRF model.  Purple and white colors in Montana (-27 C and cold), light purple and dark blue over the Columbia Basin (-9C and colder), while light blue (-1 to -4C) over western WA.    As Mark Twain said:  Cold! If the thermometer had been an inch longer we'd all have frozen to death.

So why are we so favored with more comfortable temperatures compared to our frozen brethren in Montana?  It all has to do with mountains and pressure.

The latest National Weather Service surface analysis shows high pressure dominating Alberta and upper Plains States (the lines are isobars, lines of constant sea level pressure).  This high pressure is associated with cold air in the lower atmosphere.   Such cold air originates in the Canadian arctic and them pushes southward in the interior of the continent.  With high pressure over the interior, the flow is generally offshore (easterly) over the Northwest.

Fortunately for us in western WA, we have double protection from the cold air in the interior:  the Rockies and the Cascades (see map below).  The high Rockies block the coldest/densest low-level air.  Any air that makes it across is in fact warmer, and its temperature increases due to compression as it slides down the western slopes of the Rockies into eastern WA.  Thus eastern WA is not as cold as eastern Montana.

The coldest air is blocked by the Cascades (except for the narrow Columbia River Gorge) and when it sinks down the western slopes of the Cascades it warms by compression again. So the mountains are blocking the coldest air and warming air by compression

Looking at the last four weeks at Seattle's Boeing Field, we see that the last three days have gotten close to the normal highs (around 50F, shown by the purple line), although the minimum temperatures were still on the cold side.

But let's check out Pasco in central WA (see below). OMG!  The high temperatures aren't even reaching the normal LOWS.    We are talking about temperatures 20F or more BELOW normal.   Extraordinary cold.   Mark Twain would have a field day.  Something about dogs and hair I believe.
A map of the differences of daily average temperature from normal for the 7 days ending March 1 over our state is stunning.  Eastern WA is not just cold, but it is crazy cold, with large areas being more than 20F colder than normal.

You don't even want to know about Montana, where temperatures have been more reminiscent of Mars than Earth.    Strangely enough, the origin of this cold weather may originate in an area of warm water in the tropics near the International Dateline....but discussion of that will have to wait for another blog.


  1. I am anticipating your insights on where this frigid trend originates... So we can figure out when it will be over. But I am grateful for these crisp sunny days, feels almost like fall.

  2. from a famously conservative climate scientist..... what you might call a 'climate skeptic'...
    he takes the time to detail where the understanding of climate change comes from (the science on it goes back to the 1800s) and what the data means...

    a 2014 presentation: MIT Professor Kerry Emanuel has been known for his "Show me the data!" approach to climate science. In this talk, he will present a long term, evidence-driven view of Earth's climate change, culminating in a discussion of current risks and implications. An extensive audience Q&A will follow the presentation. Professor Emanuel is an award-winning meteorologist and climate scientist and the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT. His research focuses on tropical meteorology and climate, with a specialty in hurricane physics. Emanuel has a PhD from MIT, has been a faculty member since 1981 and has served as the Director of the Center for Meteorology and Physical Oceanography and the Program in Atmospheres, Oceans, and Climate. He is co-founder of the MIT Lorenz Center, which fosters creative approaches to fundamental science devoted to understanding how climate works. He was named one of Time Magazine's 100 Influential People who Shape Our World in 2006. In 2007, he was elected as a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He is an author of over 100 peer-reviewed scientific papers and two books, including What We Know about Climate Change, recently hailed by the NY Times as "... the single best thing written about climate change for a general audience."

    here - in this 2017 presentation - he talks about what we can expect in future weather events...

  3. 14-day avg temp in NW Bellingham 36F. Avg hi 42F, avg low 29F. Range 23-47F.

  4. NWS reports a minimum temp of -44F in Mosby, Mt today. Avg March hi temp 49F, low temp 25F.

  5. WRCC records report an all-time record min temp at Mosby, Mt of -43F in Jan 1969 and all-time March record minimum of -27F in 1960. Astonishing!

  6. you should start thinking about methane emissions via melting permafrost.... an issue in alaska, canada and northern europe....

    Russian geophysicist Sergei Zimov (who spent time at Berkeley) together with his son Nikita want to prevent the permafrost from thawing due to climate change

  7. A record,or near record, deep snow cover is enhancing the cold temps. Extreme radiational cooling at night,especially in wind sheltered areas,is contributing to minimum temps falling below the predicted levels.A below zero reading tomorrow morning at Spokane is likely, if the wind dies down,and no stratus deck forms.

  8. permafrost melting...

    How is climate impacting the Arctic, what does this mean & what can we do? hosted by The Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC), at the University of Alaska Fairbanks May 11, 2017. Professor of Geophysics Vladimir Romanovsky discusses the impact of Arctic permafrost thaw.

    shorter extract of presentation:

    longer, panel discussion here:

  9. Temps approaching normal here, but wow relative humidity on my little home weather station has been really low, 37%+to 53% . In my neighborhood (Bellevue) that is unusual.

  10. We may have been seeing near normal temps, but really low humidity. On my little home weather station in Bellevue, relative humidity has been between 35%-57% for several days!

  11. Even Hawaii is having strong NE winds and overnight temps down to the 50s! I read somewhere that sunspot activity is super low but we're still having global warming. What gives?

  12. "Sahila":

    You should start thinking about finding a new hobby (preferably one which requires some humility), because your hectoring barrage of inane submissions to this blog are effective in demonstrating nothing more than the desire of yet another youtube "expert" to foist poorly supported at best, completely fallacious at worst, ideologically-driven clamor on credulous and ill-informed readers (like yourself?) which, fortunately, given the reception your posts have received, would indicate are in short supply around here.

    You exemplify the quintessential folly of those seduced by the universalization of knowledge produced by the internet along with its concomitant undermining of truth - we are all "experts" now (or would certainly like to think we are).

    I would imagine Cliff's readers might respond more positively (or at all) to your pronouncements if they included unambiguous reference to your lack of scientific/technical competence as well as clearly indicated deference to peer-reviewed sources considered credible by the atmospheric science community rather than thinly supported propagandistic doomsaying.

    I'd have hoped that by your age you'd have come to understand that the source of credibility is expert consensus rather than slick snake oil peddled by those whose primary goal is the monetization of views, likes, unique visitors, etc.

    Yes, indeed, Cliff does see fit to post your comments. They include no patently offensive content and are more or less on topic.

    However, did you consider that perhaps, in this context, the value of your dispensations of "internet wisdom" is largely derived from their demonstration as a prime example of, and a warning against, just the variety of pretentious quackery that savvy consumers of information more concerned with truth than the false surety of political/secular dogma wisely choose to disregard?

  13. People should take a serious look at new research around the correlation between solar activity and climate.

  14. Joe, instead of being a bully why don’t you tone the time to consider multiple points of view?

  15. "Jeff: I read somewhere that sunspot activity is super low but we're still having global warming. What gives?"

    If global warming is caused by human activity, why would you associate it with sunspots?

  16. Opinion:
    Folks commenting on Cliffs blog posts should stay on topic.

    This post is about "The sky falling". As in.. cold air is heavier than warm and sinks, thus mountain ranges protect Washington from extreme interior cold.
    (Many could stand to learn a bit from Cliff on climate mechanics.)

    It is my opinion, that if people want to continue to rant about climate change opinion and therory, they should do it on blog posts like the previous.


  17. When folks suddenly come on here and start posting relentlessly about AGW, it often appears as if they're only trying to convince themselves. Classic projection.

  18. Cliff- I'm looking forward to hearing more about the origination of the cold wave! Regional weather patterns are neat, but even more so when you tie them into the bigger system. One of the tools I have picked up from reading your work is to think more about weather in a vertical sense instead of just a lateral sense (ie what is happening through the column of air) and to consider the actions and mechanics of waveforms when thinking about heating/cooling of air and condensation of moisture. Gives me one more reason to stare at the clouds!

  19. Folks having problems with some of the admittedly one note posts need to remember the scroll bar is your friend.

  20. It would be nice to have some normal lows also! Low for Olympia airport was 18 degrees. This ties the record low for March 4 set on 1955.

  21. published in MARCH 3, 2019....

    Wallace Smith Broecker, the 'grandfather' of climate science, leaves a final warning for Earth... Days before his death, Wallace Broecker urged scientists to consider deploying a last-ditch solar shield to stop global warming.

    wondering why a highly credentialed and respected man - virtually on his death bed - would go to the trouble of recording and sending out a message putting forward the idea that we have to take massive 'last ditch' measures to avoid catastrophic warming of the planet....

    i dont agree with his suggestion ---- we dont understand the consequences of playing 'god' to this degree and we cant control or undo an 'experiment' such as this, nor do we have the right to inflict this kind of deliberate action on the other life forms with whom we share this planet....

    BUT.... we need to do something to plan and prepare for what's coming...

    for those dismissing methane as a threat, there's this from 2013; i could fill this page with links to the latest in methane emissions research and reports, but then i would just be accused, again, of projecting my own fears.... quite weird really, having real time recorded observations and data produced by highly qualified scientists being characterised as a fear projection:

  22. on disappearing ice:

    "At the time of year when ice usually reaches its maximum, there’s open water in a vast area stretching from Bristol Bay to the Bering Strait, said Rick Thoman, a climate specialist with Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks."

    "A year ago, a midwinter meltdown erased most of the ice in the Bering Sea, leaving vast stretches of open water and creating shocking conditions like storm surges in coastal villages normally protected by solid sea ice. The winter ice extent, when it hit its maximum last March, was the lowest, by far, in more than 150 years of records.

    A similar scenario is unfolding this year.

    Since late January, the Bering Sea has lost two-thirds of its ice area, according to statistics from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Waters are open across the entire sea, including in the Bering Strait that separates Alaska and Russia. In the middle of that narrow strait, ice that normally links Alaska’s Little Diomede Island to Russia’s Big Diomede Island through May was gone by the end of February. “As of yesterday, between the islands there was no more ice at all,” Robert Soolook, a Diomede tribal leader, said on Friday...."

  23. Sure is dry air though. Dew Point 1 degree at SeaTac this morning.

    The sun is great but I'm sure not used to air this dry. Here's looking forward to some humidity- whenever that is, especially since I seem to have got some kind of throat irritation. I wonder if there's a connection...

  24. "Arctic Amplification" of Global Warming | Prof. Philip Wookey

    As a region, the Arctic is warming faster than any other part of the planet; it is both a sentinel of global change and a key component of the climate system.

  25. Do you have any info on whether the weather info on the Probcast page will ever come back online? Or is there another way to access a similar graphical representation of the immediate forecast? Was my favorite tool for planning roadtrips and I miss it!!

  26. i'd quite like to see hard science that counters some of the conclusions reached by researchers....

    it would be really reassuring to us all, if there was actually any hard science being done/presented to refute the causes/effects of what's being observed to be happening....

    it's not like anyone is stopping credible scientists from coming up with alternative research/data/results/conclusions.... the oil companies etc are still funding (dis)information campaigns....

    why is it then that there is nothing coming out to counter the conclusions published in this article, for example?

    could it be that there is nothing that can refute this with any credibility? that the weight of the evidence now is so staggeringly massive that denial is no longer possible?

    ".....This enigma involves methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Twenty years ago, the level of methane in the atmosphere stopped increasing, giving humanity a bit of a break when it came to slowing climate change. But the concentration started rising again in 2007 — and it’s been picking up the pace over the last four years, according to new research.

    Scientists haven’t figured out the cause, but they say one thing is clear: This surge could imperil the Paris climate accord. That’s because many scenarios for meeting its goals assumed that methane would be falling by now, buying time to tackle the long-term challenge of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

    “I don’t want to run around and cry wolf all the time, but it is something that is very, very worrying,” said Euan Nisbet, an earth scientist at Royal Holloway, University of London, and lead author of a recent study reporting that the growth of atmospheric methane is accelerating...."

  27. Dr Mass
    “The high Rockies block the coldest/densest low-level air. Any air that makes it across is in fact warmer, and its temperature increases due to compression as it slides down the western slopes of the Rockies into eastern WA. Thus eastern WA is not as cold as eastern Montana.”

    Thanks, that makes a lot of sense. It’s my understanding that if the cold, low level air on the east side of the Rockies were to move west - up one side and down the other - there would be no net change in temperature (cooling first from expansion, then warming by compression).

    It follows that the air moving west must have been higher and warmer to start with.

  28. Instead of an ad hominem trashing of Sahila, perhaps some of the critics could view the links and make an actual substantive comment if they disagree with her views and the views of her sources.

    As nearly as I can determine, the Arctic warming links she has provided consistent with the most recent update to NOAA's Arctic Report Card released at the end of 2018:

    I think the current Anchorage Daily News story about the repetition of the lack of Arctic sea ice is a major event:

    "The unprecedented lack of ice in the Bering Sea follows another record-breaking winter. Last spring, in 2018, the extent of ice in the Bering Sea only reached half of its previous lowest size, which was recorded in 2001. * * * This spring, the situation is even more extreme. While there’s more ice on the Russian side of the Bering Sea, there’s virtually none on the Alaska side."

  29. A bigger driver seems behind the recent cold weather along the West Coast. Lowland snow in Seattle area, snow in Las Vegas, largest snow in Arizona desert, the Russian River to flooded in Sonoma County, California has replenished its reservoirs. Enough inspiration for a Willie Nelson to write a weather song!


  31. "MAC":

    Since you found "Sahlias" Youtube videos so compelling, why didn't you follow suit rather than linking to an eminently credible scientific agency? Could it be that perhaps you're also not entirely convinced of the robustness of her "sources"?

    Or perhaps you would disagree that in order to best persuade an audience with even a modicum of scientific literacy the reliability of a source of information, vis-a-vis the analytical rigor employed in its formulation along with the protocol implemented in its dissemination, is paramount more than ever in this digital dystopia where waning admiration for expertise is supplanted by the ascendancy of fatuous entertainment and insidious propaganda.

  32. Today people from all over the world are reporting temperature-specific anomalies that are not typical for their area. The magnitude of earthquakes is increasing. Volcanic activity is increasing. The number of hurricanes and floods is increasing. Many people wonder why it's happening. I've started to look for information on the Internet and have come across a report on climatology by an independent group of scientists from all over the world The report states astronomical factors and space cycles, which directly influence global and climate changes on our planet.


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