November 16, 2020

Bomb's Away: An Explosively Deepening Pacific Cyclone is Approaching Our Region

The moisture channel satellite image at 1 PM  is stunning and ominous (see below), with a huge plume of water vapor distorted into the characteristic structure of an intense midlatitude cyclone.  I place an "L" at the position of the low pressure center and noted the intrusion of dry air (black colors) that indicates the trailing sinking of a major storm.

One way I know where the low center is from a special weather satellite called a scatterometer, that bombards the ocean surface with microwave radiation, with the amount scattered back revealing wind speed and direction.  This satellite can see through rain and clouds....a miracle.

In the resulting wind map around noon, you can see the low center at approximately 44N, 132W.  Colors indicate wind speed.

As I speak a powerful warm front is moving up the coast, with winds gusting to 50-90 mph behind it. 

 Below is the forecast surface map at 4 PM.  The low center is offshore, but if you look closely you can see distinct change of colors along the northern WA coast, from cool (green) to warmer (yellow).  That is the warm front.  And if you have very good eyes you can see a major change in wind speed and direction from easterly wind north of the front to strong southerly winds to its south.

The latest UW model run brings the storm to landfall as a 968 hPa low around 1 PM tomorrow.  A large pressure gradient extends over western WA, so we will get a (lesser) taste of the strong winds.

The European Center model intensifies the storm even more, bombing down to 
about 960 hPa around 9 AM tomorrow.

Winds?  You bet.  The European Center model predicts big winds (50-70 mph) off our coast at 6 AM tomorrow.

And as the low makes landfall, 70-90 mph winds hit near the tip of Vancouver Island and in some of the mountains of SW BC.

As the storm moves through tomorrow morning it will get very windy over NW Washington, with winds gusting about 50 mph around the San Juans.  Not a good morning to take a ferry ride.  

I spent hours last weekend raking and blowing leaves.  I think I will have to do it again very soon....

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  1. Is this storms track similar to the Columbus day 1962 ?

  2. Watch storm here:
    Check out wind speed at various elevations using slider on bottom right. Cool.

  3. October 12, 1962 (Columbus Day)- 'Hurricane' Freda- sustained winds 68 knots, gusts to 80 knots:

    I was 12 years old and desperately wanted to go down to the Seattle World's Fair from Vancouver, BC where we lived. The only remaining chance after a summer of pestering was to be the October 12th weekend, and that was quickly kyboshed when the storm hit. But miraculously, we were able to drive down later in the day on Saturday (Oct. 13), and I got to the fair, among a kazillion others, on Sunday. No way up the space needle, no way on the monorail... but at least the lineup to the science museum moved quickly, which, for me as a nerd, was the big draw...

    The best reporting station off northern Vancouver Island for approaching big storms is Solander Island:

    There are the occasional hurricane wind warnings posted for this location- the highest reading I've seen was 84 knots. but even in Howe Sound, just round the corner from Vancouver, outflow NE arctic air winds can funnel through, which get reported at Pam Rocks:

    current forecast is here:

    In 1991, winds hit 77 knots there. Our power, on Bowen Island nearby, was out for 17 days. Temps. were around -17 degrees Celsius, which is about 1Degree Fahrenheit.

    1. Yup. And Freda knocked down many of the old growth trees on needles mountain between Seymour and lynn

  4. Looks like the Columbus Day storm hit at the bottom of Vancouver Island rather than at the top.

    1. That CD storm actually began tracking northward, the eye staying about 30 miles off the West Coast...the hurricane force winds raked the tip of Northern California, then really laid waste to parts of the Oregon coast...with Portland having gusts of 120+mph--even higher on the coastline...finally, the storm slowly began to lose power, but did veer closer to the mainland of Washington, and therefor wind gusts of 100mph were recorded in Puget Sound....the storm then decided to crash into southern Vancouver Island, where it eventually degraded...the track of the storm itself was unusual, as it made that slow loop northward from California, hugged the coastline through Oregon and Washington, and then veered right, into Vancouver Island...Poor Vancouver Island seems to be where many storms go to die!

  5. All the forecasts seem very confident that the eye will stay west of Vancouver Island. Any probability the low will move east, say traverse the Straight of Georgia?

  6. So what causes the rapid lowering of pressure as these low's approach our Pacific NW coasts as opposed to well out at sea etc.? In other words what causes them to "bomb out" right near our coast lines? A rapid increase in winds aloft to "feed" the storm? Confluence of land mass winds/pressure etc.(doubtful) any help? Thanks


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