December 30, 2019

Strong Winds and Lots of Precipitation Ahead

It is time to find an umbrella, but it needs to be a sturdy one, since a significant blow is ahead of us.

Looking out into the Pacific, an impressive line up of moisture is heading our way, while a small cyclone is threatening Baja California.


Tomorrow, a moderate-strength cyclone (roughly 990 hPa central pressure) will make landfall on the northern tip of Vancouver Island (see sea level pressure map for 1 PM Tuesday).  With relatively high pressure to the south, a very large pressure gradient will occur over western WA and the coastal waters.  The result?  Strong winds.


Let's take a look at the predicted winds, using a graphic from the city of Seattle WINDWATCH site, which shows predicted wind gusts over Seattle.  Major winds ramp up tomorrow morning, with wind gusts hitting around 40 mph during the afternoon and early evening.  That is generally enough to break some branches and produce some power outages.   Not a record-breaking storm but the most powerful winds yet this winter.  The fact that the multiple forecasts shown in the plot are all going for a significant event provides some confidence that we will have a good blow.


Winds will start revving up even earlier over NW Washington, where southeasterly winds could hit 40-60 mph overnight.

And then there is the bountiful precipitation.  For the 24-h totals  ending 4 AM tomorrow, moderate amounts over northwest WA as the storm approaches.


But the next 24-h will be sodden, with 2-5 inches on the western side of the regional mountains, but substantial rain shadowing over the western lowlands.


Now, you want to be impressed?  Here is the accumulated rainfall over the next 7 days.  Some locations approaching 10 inches.


And yes, snow.  Initially, the freezing level will be high, but cooler air will move in by Thursday.  The snowfall totals are measured in feet over the next week.  Good for snowpack and skiing.



23 comments:

  1. The AP beat them to it today, claiming we are "similar to the start of 2015, the state’s last big drought," and sourcing an NRCS spokesperson (ie USDA - the same people that give you the Drought Monitor).

    Currently at 86% of precip at Seatac for the Water Year. After this week we will be at or near 100. Total snow on the ground today at Stevens Pass is 32" exactly the 5 year avg. The shortfall of snowpack in 2015 (not precip, precip was normal in 2015 and not remotely close to a drought) mainly occurred in January and February. To compare snowpack this year to 2015 and make an implicit claim of full season equivalency is stunning to me.

    But as we have learned ad nauseum with all of this, it's the prediction that matters. And the prediction is always really, really scary (should I go back to last May and find all of the scary headlines for the 2019 drought that wasn't?) I really do not understand why anyone would believe this anymore. Credibility matters. Doesn't it?

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    1. Keep adding the voice of reason, sunsnow12. :) More of that is needed.

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    2. Very well said sunsnow12. I couldn't agree with you more

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    3. But the five year average snowpack is not a normal longterm number. That's much too short timeframe for talking about normal.

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    4. 2015 if memory serves was above normal precipitation but the snow pack came out under par due to AR's/Pineapple expresses/heat waves late in the winter season/early spring. Thus the region went into the dry season with a much lower reserve of snow pack to feed rivers. Then, the summer was brutally hot and dry (by this regions standards). Technically, that can be perceived as a drought if your livelihood depends on snow melt.

      Its still a "drought" if all your summer reserves are shot before getting into actual summer. Much of what constitutes a "drought" is legal as well. Just like Marriage, there is Love/Faith and then there are the Courts/IRS. They should be mutually exclusive but they aren't. What is legally a drought and what constitutes a drought in reference to meteorology are not quite the same. A declared drought means the .gov can authorize payouts if you apply for them etc. if your livelihood is impacted by it. Just like any other "declared" disaster.

      Anyway, maybe have this talk in March when it means something.

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    5. Baker lost 30 inches yesterday and most of Snoqualmie is now shut down and now almost 60 and rain Friday. This pattern is a lot like 2015 where they forecast huge dumps of snow or cold weather coming and then it ends up being way warmer than forecasted.

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    6. Yes sunsnow12 the headlines are alarming but that's what sells subscriptions and gets readers. It's like those YouTubers that clickbait. It's akin to lying and embellishing for the almighty "click". Some people believe the alarmist tone and propaganda but some, like yourself, me and many many others, do not believe it. We can check the facts and we know the truth in this case. And the truth is there is no drought, we have had some "dry spells" such as last spring, mid-autumn, etc but that's actually quite normal. We have had copious amounts of rain in December that has more than made up for the shortfall the previous month. I have said it before on here, the ONLY possible scenario that could realistically give us a true drought in this location and given our climate patterns (even those that deviate from normal) would have to follow this scenario.
      1.A lower than normal snowpack winter
      2 A dry spring.
      3.A dry summer (which is normal, summers tend to be dry around here) and
      Here's the kicker
      4.An Indian summer (extended period of summer weather into September and October). It's the extended dry spell and the delay of the fall rains could send us into a drought (temporarily). These types of Indian summer patterns were very common in the 80s and early 90s. Now they're very rare. The scenario I mentioned is very rare almost never happens but if it did, hypothetically we could see problems with water shortages, plants dying, etc. This scenario ALMOST occured in 2015. But a wet period in late July followed by an early start to the Fall rains (late August) defintely ended any worries about a drought in 2015.

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    7. Rebecca – I agree. But it’s certainly a reasonable marker in the context of drought. Which one of the last 5 years was a drought? 2019? We had an early meltout (has happened many times before) and were bombarded with catastrophic hyperbole all of which was proven false. 2018: Not close. 2017: Not close. 2016 (one for the memory books)… the year of the “wet drought” … with over 33 ft of snowfall at Snoqualmie and all of the dire predictions of drought – all of it – wrong. Or 2015, the year we had virtually zero snowpack but normal precip and proved we can manage the resource (very) well when snowpack is almost nothing?

      It just goes on and on and on.

      Btw – Cliff refuted the prediction of drought disaster for 2016 (9/25/15 post: “Drought in 2016 for Washington State?”) and 8 months later was proven 100% correct. No one else did that and no one gave him credit for it. Why is that?

      Bamcis – You are basically describing 2015, which resolved easily due to winter precip (and water professionals being the pros they are) from a water supply standpoint, see Cliff’s posts 5/20/15 “Drought Misinformation” and 10/16/15 “Northwest Stress Test”. I agree with you about March, the problem is the people printing the articles do not.

      Blah – It’s 34 at Snoqualmie Pass right now. The forecast is for 3-5 feet of snow in the next 10 days. I’m not real big on predictions so you may be right, or they may be right… but let’s check back in on the 10th and see where it is.

      Scott8 – Exactly and the reality is this: *Predicted* drought is one of the most powerful threats made regarding climate today. It’s visceral. It scares people. Coupled with wildfire!™ (as if our forests have never seen them before), it’s a guaranteed win-win for the fear-mongers. And we are reading the blog of one of the only scientists in the nation calling it out (and being correct). Why is that? Why aren’t there more?

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    8. Scott8 and Sunsnow: I'm with you in questioning the credibility of the wet-dry characterizations. The range of "normal" here is very wide. Therefore, it's absurd to expect that statistical averages be met on each and every specific day - and yet that's how shortfalls and other tales of woe are framed. If there was a drought in 2015 in Western Washington, it sure wasn't here (we had more than 90" precip). Comparing this (also wet) year's "drought" to that year defies all reason. Different degrees of soaked still - soaked.

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    9. In 2015 the Washington Farm Bureau reported $700 million in agricultural losses due to drought.

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    10. Rebecca,
      The Feds looked at this situation and found not net loss of farm income in 2015. Why? Because prices went up for a number of the crops were impacted. An amazing situation...extraordinary warm/dry year with no net ag losses....cliff

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  2. Quite a pronounced rain shadow over Kitsap and I5 with the weather tracking from the North West. Looks like New Years plans should mostly dry and calm for the populated areas if this donut hole persists. Might even be enough to block the wind for the Space Needle and allow the fireworks. Port Angeles/Sequim is going to be soaked, though.

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  3. The BOW WA weather reporting Rock-on-a-string is wet and starting to wiggle here at 9:30 AM. It is blowing some.

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  4. I noticed the ferry weather observation site is broken:
    http://i90.atmos.washington.edu/ferry/Ferryjs/mainframe1

    Is this site going to get fixed any time soon? Or is there any intention to sunset this project?

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  5. Sequim is dead calm and raining steadily, but not heavily

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  6. Hood Canal bridge closed at 2:34 PM due to high winds. Any thoughts about when they will subside?

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  7. 0.86" of precip today in NW Bellingham. Max wind gust 31 mph.

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  8. Pretty intense hail storm here on Bainbridge Island this morning 0700 to 0725.

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  9. This morning we're having 50 mph winds, the highest gust so far was 59. We're just south of Thorp. Airport at Ellensburg shows 36 mph as their highest. This doesn't happen often - it's usually the inverse!

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  10. Hey cliff,

    This morning the GFS forecast was showing potential for some serious snow in a couple of weeks around the puget sound. I know forecast models are not accurate that far out but I would still love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

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    1. I would hazard to guess his thoughts are what you just stated, forecast models past three days are a guessing game. The technology we use in the US is horribly outdated, and mother nature can change conditions on a whim. My advice is to not look at forecasts more than 2-3 days out.

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  11. Cliff, what is causing such warm weather for January? with each storm system freezing levels jump to >6500ft in the majority of the cascades resulting in 'snow - rain - snow - rain' freeze/thaw cycles. I was in the high country these past few days and snow levels are the lowest I have seen in the past ~10 years even up at ~5500 ft. Fingers crossed that Jay Albrecht is correct (https://twitter.com/AlbrechtJay/status/1211529957345595393) and for snow/freezing levels to "get down, stay down" at least for the next 8 weeks so that our all important snowpack can be replenished.

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  12. I've seen many a relatively warm, wet winter in the PNW, and I'm not sure we're outside "range of normal." One of the reasons we've been so happy here is (drum roll) we're golfers. I can recall many years when we golfed all winter in Bellingham. There have also been years when we've had snow piled up to the windowsills here in Glacier at a mere 900 ft elevation, and that includes recent years. I'm actually quite happy to be getting a break from having to dig pathways to the garage and woodshed. There was so much snow last winter here, the neighbor's metal roof dumped so much snow into our driveway we needed a backhoe to come and yard it out (have photos). As for "all important snowpack," reliance on it is very much overstated on the west side of the Cascades. Perennial rivers and treams rely on baseflow.

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