August 15, 2020

Puget Sound's Unknown Air Conditioner Has Turned On

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Every resident of Puget Sound has a powerful air conditioner at hand and that AC turned on today.  An AC that limits the lengths of our heat waves and draws in cool air while across Puget Sound while Portland and the Willamette Valley are sweltering.
You may have noticed the switch being turned on today, with brisk winds from the north moderating the heat.  This AC occurs because of the particular terrain of our region and how heat waves develop here.

You can see the special AC in action in the next figure, which shows the surface air temperatures and winds at 2 PM.  90s in Portland and the Willamette Valley (pink colors), but greens and yellow around Seattle and Puget Sound-70s and 80sF.  

Look at the winds!  There are northerly over Puget Sound, drawing in  air was was cooled over the Straits of Juan De Fuca and Georgia.


The observations at 2 PM support this prediction (see below), with temperatures around 80F near Seattle, but mid-90s around Portland.  And northerlies around Puget Sound.


So why do we have this AC system?   What is forcing the cool northerlies?  

Glad you asked.  The answer is revealed in the forecast sea level pressures for 2 PM today (Saturday), shown below (the solid lines are sea level pressure and colors indicate low-level temperatures).   In virtually all western WA heat waves, a region of warm air and associated low pressure (the thermal trough) moves northward out of California.  You can see that feature in the map/  With low pressure south of us and high pressure to the north, winds from the north are produced (northerlies), which brings cool air towards Puget Sound



The winds on top of my building at the UW are now gusting to 18 knots from the north-northwest (see below).


Another way to see the local AC turn on is to plot the winds above SeaTac Airport over time (see below, time increases to the left, height on the Y-axis).  Wind in blue barbs, temperature in red.  Strong northerly winds below 850 hPa (about 5000 ft).

And sitting outside writing this blog, my wind chimes are stirring proving a pleasant music accompaniment to the cooling winds.

The problem we will soon face?  As the warming continues the low pressure will move right over us, shutting down our local AC.  Tomorrow will be brutal, with temperatures surging into the mid-90s around Puget Sound.

But don't worry....we have ANOTHER AC ready to go, with cool air pushing in from over the Pacific on Monday morning.  

8 comments:

  1. On the coast,a northerly wind acts more as a downslope/offshore wind,thus 90's today around Forks/UIL.

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  2. You're right about the Willamette Valley too. We're sweltering down here.

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  3. The map showing wind speed and direction does not include Whatcom County for good reason as the northerlies Cliff discussed have generally not materialized here - at least not of the magnitude of those shown on the wind speed/direction map. At my location in NW Bellingham, the maximum gust I've measured today is 12 mph from the west. It's also been considerably warmer here than forecast (Weather Channel). Yesterday's maximum temperature was 77F and today's is 85F. Both values are more than 5 degrees above the forecast maximum temperatures. Additionally, it's been somewhat muggy here. The maximum dew point temperature today was 65F which contributed to a maximum "feels like" temperature of 99F. Central AC is delightful to have today and will be down right essential tomorrow!

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  4. I fully support you Cliff! So I wanted you to know that when I opened your blog this morning (Sun.) your headline "Puget Sound's Unknown Air Conditioner Has Turned On" was an active link to a Trump ad!! Yuck! Perhaps you can fix that... take care of yourself these days!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But Mass is just like Trump! He makes stuff up. Distorts facts. Don’t trust him on ANYTHING!

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    2. Joan...your comments are poisonous, hurtful, and unfounded. What have I made up? What have I distorted? You played a major role in poisoning things at KNKX. You constantly were accusing me of the most terrible things....but when I asked you what I get wrong...you could never answer. This kind of Trump name calling is not a good luck. You have hurt a lot of people with your actions...cliff

      Delete
    3. Unprofessional, inflammatory reply outside the scope of her expertise by Joan Tornow on a personal blog confirms the decision of my family to discontinue support of KNKX...

      Delete
  5. a few rumbles of thunder in bellevue started around 8:10 pm

    ReplyDelete

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

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