June 11, 2021

A Wet Period Ahead As Tropical Moisture Streams Northward. My Podcast Has the Details.

My new podcast is now online.

You will learn about two major wet periods ahead, Sunday and Tuesday, with the potential for thunderstorms on the latter.   Before it is over, much of western Washington could receive 1-2 inches of rain, which is a lot for June.

And in the podcast, I explain the cause of Sunday's wet weather:   a potent atmospheric river extending northeastward out of the tropics.   Also of interest, we might break some dew point records on Sunday, resulting in a relatively  "sticky" experience west of the Cascade crest.

You can listen to my podcast below or use your favorite streaming service.

Just to get you "prepared" for the wet, here is the latest forecast total through 5 PM Monday.  The reddish/orange colors are more than 2 inches!   The coast will be very wet, as will be the Willamette Valley.   Even the east-side gets a piece of it.


And more on Tuesday (see below), particularly over Washington State. And if this is right, the rain will be a great help east of the Cascade crest.


My previous blog on the wildfire outlook for this summer is found here.

Here is my podcast:

Click the play button to listen or use your favorite streaming service (see below)


June 10, 2021

Wildfire Outlook for the Pacific Northwest

During the past few days, I have received several calls from the media asking about the potential for wildfires this summer around the region. 

They ask:  will this be a major wildfire year with lots of smoke?

There is particular concern about wildfires because of our dry spring.

So let me try to answer this question, using the latest weather forecasts and new insights gained from research on the connection between weather and wildfires over our region.   My analysis will be more nuanced than being provided by some.

Northwest Wildfires Can Be Divided into Three Main Types

There is no such thing as ONE wildfire forecast for the region because the origins of fires differ so radically around the Northwest.  That is why general statements or projections about regional fires are inevitably simplistic and wrong.

As shown below, one can identify three main wildfire areas in the Northwest.  

First, there are the forested regions west of the Cascade crest (indicated by the red box below)

 Major fires in this area only occur with VERY strong easterly (from the east flow) during late summer, generally at the end of August or early September.  Fires are rare on the west side, but when they do occur they can be large and catastrophic because there is so much fuel.  

The fires last summer in western Oregon (September 8-13) were good examples of such fires.  The Tillamook Burns in the Oregon coastal range of the early to mid 20th century are another.  

Dry/warm conditions enhance west side fire potential but are not required for such fires.


Then there are the grassland and range fires, such as those of the Columbia Basin of eastern Washington (cyan box).  These fires are ignited by humans and lightning and tend to move very fast when winds are strong.  The fuels (grass, small bushes) are dry enough to burn by June every summer and thus the existence of fires is not very climate-sensitive.

Finally, there are the lower to mid-slope fires of the regional terrain east of the Cascade crest (indicated by yellow boxes). This region has Ponderosa pines, western red cedar, and white oaks on the lower slopes, transitioning to Grand and Douglas firs at mid-slope. Lack of snowpack and dry/warm conditions during spring and summer contribute to drying the "fuels" and strong winds have been associated with a number of the major fires.  Ignitions come from human origins and lightning.

So now the predictions for this summer.

West-side Wildfires:  Low Probability

West-side fires require unusually strong easterly winds.  Such winds are very dry and their strength can help start fires (e.g., from downed powerlines) and foster their rapid growth and spread.  The easterly winds during the wildfires of last September were the strongest ever observed in western Oregon during late summer.

The chances of getting such strong winds this year are low from a climatological perspective.  But there is more.   The probability of strong easterly winds during late summer/early fall is enhanced during La Nina years, such as last year.(during La Nina years the sea surface temperature of the central tropical Pacific is more than .5C below normal). Fortunately, La Nina has weakened and we are now experiencing Neutral conditions during which strong easterly flow over western WA and Oregon is LESS LIKELY than during La Nina years.  

Why are La Nina years good for strong late summer easterly flow events?  Because there is a tendency to get upper-level ridging in the eastern Pacific, with strong troughs moving down its eastern side.  Such troughs bring strong winds.

Another major positive is the unusually wet period forecast over the western side of the region during the next week.  You don't see situations that wet in June very often.


Furthermore, the unusually bountiful late-season snowpack will lead to moistened upper elevations of the westside forests  (see below).

Although not impossible, the probability of a west-side fire like last year should be quite low.

Grass/Range Fires in the Columbia Basin:  Lower Probability Than Normal

By this time each year, the grass/rangeland of eastern Washington is dry enough to burn.    But there are two reasons why one should be hopeful this year.

First, because of the below-normal precipitation this spring the grass is quite sparse, so sparse that ranchers are complaining about lacking forage for their herds.


Another region for optimism is about wind.  The large/fast-moving grass/rangeland fires in eastern Washington last Septembler were initiated by and spread by unusually strong winds.  For the same reasons as noted above (end of La Nina), the likelihood of such strong winds (from the north, northeast, and east) are less this year than last.

Lower to Middle Slopes East of the Cascade Crest

This is the area of greatest wildfire threat this year.  Looking at the departure of precipitation from normal, much of eastern Washington has been drier than normal by 0-4 inches, with particular concerns along the eastern slopes of the southern Washington and Oregon Cascades because of the dense, poorly managed dryland forests that are found there.


The sparse grasses this year are positive, but what fuels are available are drier than normal (the Northwest  Coordinating Center suggests we are about 3 weeks ahead of schedule).

A favorable factor is the substantial amount of rain expected over the weekend.  Eastern Washington and Oregon could get as much as .5 inches....which is a lot this time of year for that region...and temperatures will be relatively cool.  This kind of rainfall will help suppress the chance of wildfires along the eastern slopes for several weeks.


The bottom line is that there are competing factors regarding eastern slope fires, so that the chance of such fires during the next few months is probably near normal.  

We all must be careful not to initiate fires in that environment.  With poor forest management and fire suppression, we have created a dangerously flammable situation on the eastern slopes of the Cascades and in the Okanagan, a situation worsened by frequent human fire ignitions.

June 07, 2021

The Cool Drought-Buster Weekend Storm...and More is On the Way!

Between strong fronts and an active Puget Sound convergence zone, a large amount of rain for June has fallen west of the Cascade crest. 

Over the past 48-h, the regional view shows 1-1.5 inches south of the Olympics, a similar amount in Snohomish County, and 2-4 inches in the Cascade foothills northeast of Seattle.  About .8  inches fell around Seattle, over half of the normal monthly total.


The radar-based precipitation totals over the past few days are impressive.  The Camano Island radar shows totals getting to 3 inches or more in the Puget Sound convergence zone band east of Everett.


And the Langley Hill radar near Hoquiam picked up similar amounts on the southwest and southern sides of the Olympics.


This much rain resulted in substantial improvement of river levels around the State, with most at near-normal  (green) levels (see USGS plot this morning).


And the fronts that brought the rain also brought cool air.  Yesterday, Seattle had a record low maximum temperature for the date (55F) and there was snow above 4500 ft.  Paradise on Mt. Rainier was winterlike this morning at 5 AM (see below).


But now the amazing thing.... a lot more precipitation is coming this weekend (sorry).   

Take a look at the latest European Center accumulated total precipitation through next Tuesday morning.  Mama Mia!  2-4 inches over southeastern BC and into the Olympics.   The western slopes of the Cascades get over an inch.


And we are going into this summer with a very good snowpack, as shown by the latest Snowtel analysis.  240% of normal in the Olympics.
The critical Yakima River reservoirs are full....and at very high levels: far high than average or last year.  Agriculture will have the water they require

And the latest USDA Forest Service analysis shows low fire danger at this time across Washington State.


There may be certain media outlets that are talking about drought and gloom/doom, but we are really in quite decent shape regarding water resources for this summer.  The only exception is the situation in southeast Washington where dry spring conditions are a problem for dryland farmers.


June 06, 2021

Remembering The Critical D-Day Forecast

Today is the 77th anniversary of D-Day, the day when the allies landed hundreds of thousands of troops on the beaches of Normandy.

 What is not well known is that weather forecasting played a crucial role in the victory of the Allies.  

And there have been recent analyses by Anders Persson of the meteorological situation that provided new insights into the weather predictions that guided the decision to launch the invasion.  

June 6, 1944

The landing on Normandy had several key environmental requirements.   A full moon was required to provide sufficient illumination for gliders and parachute troops the prior evening. There could not be a low cloud base that would prevent close air support and accurate naval bombardment along the coast.    Low tide conditions were needed so dangerous beach obstacles could be avoided.   Furthermore, winds had to be light, so that waves and swell would be minimal.

June 4-7th would have the requisite lunar and tide conditions, with the next opportunity not until later in the month.  And it was a matter of time before the Germans figured out where the real invasion would take place.  There was strong pressure to move sooner than later.

Three forecast groups were represented in the overall meteorological team, two British (UK Meteorological Office and British Navy) and one American (headed by Dr. Irving Crick).  The meteorological leader was the Royal Air Force's, James Stagg.    The British meteorologists made use of traditional forecasting approaches that relied on the Norwegian Cyclone Model, with a typical evolution of cyclones and fronts (see below), while the American's used a controversial "analog" approach, where one searched for similar weather situations in the past.



Weather prediction was a primitive, subjective affair at that time.  There were no numerical weather prediction models, little understanding of jet streams and upper-level weather features, and an acute lack of observations, particularly over the ocean.

The situation on June 4, 1944 was problematic (see sea level pressure analysis below).  A fairly strong low center was approaching northern Scotland.  The lines are isobars, lines of constant pressure, and where they are close together the winds would be too strong.  Plus, a cold front was approaching (the line with the triangles on it).   Not good.


The weather map on June 5th indicated that the low had strengthened but had moved to the northeast (see below).  An area of high pressure centered west of Spain was starting to extend northward into the region.  Winds would still be significant but the situation might be improving.


The forecast team until Stagg predicted the low would continue to move northward, producing conditions just good enough for D-Day on June 6th.   The actual weather map for June 6th (below) suggests that Stagg and associates made the right forecast for the wrong reason. 

The storm did NOT move to the northeast as predicted but weakened rapidly as it slid to the southeast.  And the pressure differences over the channel were large enough to create significant wave action, which caused extensive sea sickness, high water levels on the beaches, and lost equipment and deaths.  Marginal, but just good enough for the landings on Normandy.


It has been thought that the German's had poor weather maps over the eastern Atlantic because they had few weather assets over the Atlantic (and none over North America).  But as noted in the article by Ander Persson, it appears the Germans had decoded Allied weather communications and possessed relatively decent weather maps.  They assumed that the marginal conditions on June 6th were not good enough for an invasion, resulting in a lack of readiness and the absence of General Erwin Rommel to visit his wife on her birthday.

Weather conditions were particularly important for the British and American militaries during the war because of their dependence on air superiority to overwhelm German tanks and other assets.   

World War II represents the first war in which meteorologists played a critical role in guiding and supporting the American military. Today, the U.S. military invests substantial resources into weather prediction, including major groups in the U.S. Navy (e.g., Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center, Naval Research Labs) and the U.S. Air Force.


June 04, 2021

Rain and Fronts this Weekend. Plus My Podcast on the Number One Summer Weather Phenomenon in the Pacific Northwest.

My new podcast is out.

In it I provide a detailed forecast for this weekend plus describe the key summer weather feature of the Pacific Northwest:  the onshore push of marine air, sometimes called the marine push.   

You can listen to my podcast below or use your favorite streaming service.

The marine air really surged in last night, with low clouds over central Puget Sound this morning (see below).   The low clouds will melt away this afternoon, leaving plenty of sunshine on both sides of the Cascades.


But tonight a front will cross western Washington, bring showers overnight and much cooler air behind. A potent Puget Sound Convergence Zone should form over the central to northern Puget Sound area tomorrow afternoon (see precipitation forecast for 2 PM)--so head north or south of it if you want to be dry.  Showers along the coat and generally dry in eastern WA

And then a more potent front with much more rain arrives Sunday afternoon....so get in your walk, run, or outdoor activity during the AM hours. The 24-h total ending 5 AM Monday is quite impressive for this time of the year (see below).  Very welcome.


Finally, I will be having a special zoom session for my Patreon supporters, tomorrow, June 5th at 10 AM.  I will talk about weather satellite technology and answer your questions.  All of you Patreon folks will be getting an invitation.

_____________________________-

Here is my podcast:

Click the play button to listen or use your favorite streaming service (see below)


June 02, 2021

The Heat Wave Ends As Marine Air Starts Pushing Eastward

 The temperatures during the past month have been a roller coaster, with extended periods of above normal and below normal temperatures (see plot below for Sea-Tac, the purple line is the normal high, the cyan line is the normal low).  The last two days have topped out around 85F, around 20F above normal!

Did we break any temperature records during the period? 

Not one (see plot below, which show the observed highs and lows, with the dashed lines showing the daily records).    This time of the year you have to exceed 90F to have a chance of a daily high record, below 40F for a record low.

80s F were prevalent today over the Puget Sound interior and low one hundreds in the Columbia Basin (see today's highs in the graphic below, click on image to enlarge).



An upper-level trough of low pressure is approaching as I write this blog, and this feature has initiated an onshore push of marine air.   Our natural air conditioner. 

 One sign of the push is the winds at Shelton--located to the northwest of Olympia and an excellent location to look for marine air surging from the coast to the southern Sound.  The winds at this site started to increase rapidly from the southwest (see below) this afternoon,  gusting to 25 mph, a sign of the influx of cooler, ocean air.

Shelton Wind Speed

Another sign of the push is that the pressure difference between the western Washington and coastal zone has increased considerably, with higher pressure along the coast.   Expect partly cloudy skies and highs around 70F tomorrow.  My dog will be happier.

But the big shocker will the rain on Saturday, which will be enough to be significant (see 24 h totals). Very needed and welcome after a dry spring.  And even more on Monday.


Precipitation this time of the year is of great value.   It both lessens the water needed for irrigation and slows the drying in wildfire-prone areas.

Many are asking whether this will be a bad wildfire year in the Northwest.    I will take up that question up in a future blog.  But let me note that a repeat of the September western Oregon wildfire event is highly unlikely, since it was forced by record-breaking winds from the east.

June 01, 2021

KNKX Leader Resigns as the Radio Station Turns to Political Advocacy

 Public radio station KNKX is in trouble.

 Last month, KNKX Director of Content, Matt Martinez resigned.   Online access to the station is plummeting.  KNKX news content has become highly politicized. Racial and identity politics has made deep inroads into the station.  Diversity of viewpoint is being suppressed.  And a new social justice reporter is spreading anti-Israel tweets.


Resignation at the Top

 A month ago, Matt Martinez, Director of Content for the station, resigned abruptly, leaving a highly powerful/responsible position to become a producer at On Being, a non-profit Minneapolis podcast producer.   There was no official announcement of his leaving KNKX.

 Over the past five years, Mr. Martinez has supervised all station content including news, music, on-air production, and web offerings.  During that time, the newly reborn station has suffered steady declines in on-air ratings and online traffic.   But most seriously, Mr. Martinez took the station in a politicized direction rather than provide a venue for diverse viewpoints and ideas.  And the citizens of the region are much worst for it.


KNKX was reborn as a new station in 2016, with the potential to grow and invigorate public discourse.  Instead. its listener and on-line followers have declined and the station has lapsed into identity politics.  KNKX management bears responsibility for this lost opportunity to serve the community. 

Racial profiling at KNKX

 A revealing example of Mr. Martinez’s priorities was found in his interview on Current.Org, where he discussed “uncomfortable truths about race in public radio.”    In that interview, he complained about KNKX’s “very white audience”, “white-led organization”, “mostly white newsroom”, and “all white announcers.”    After lamenting about the racial make-up of the audience and KNKX staff  he noted that he “was shaking while I was saying those words.”  

Replace white with another race and you see how inappropriate his comments were.  Furthermore, they were inconsistent with the truth.

In his interview (you can watch the video at the link above), he admitted that the racial make-up of the KNKX audience almost exactly matched the demographics of the region.  Since he, a self-identified “person of color", was one of the two key leaders of the station, it could hardly be claimed that the station was “white-led.”  Furthermore, the KNKX News Director is also a “person of color” and the Board of Directors has members of all races and backgrounds.   His statements were without a factual basis. 


There is a term for downgrading people of some races and wishing to give preference to individuals of other races.  It is called racism.  

And such attitudes have no place on a public radio station or anywhere else in a democratic society.   Mr. Martinez’s perspectives about race pervade the station’s diversity statement, which states that public radio stations have been white-centered and have catered to mostly white audiences, staff, and donors. This has been the case at KNKX and KPLU throughout our history.” 

Not only is this fixation on racial profiling ethically repulsive, but it is particularly inappropriate for KNKX, a long-time jazz station that has featured and fostered multiculturalism for decades.  Disturbingly, the diversity statement includes a sentence of universal guilt ("we have fallen short").  Surely, Joey Cohn, the long-term leader of the radio station, knows better.  His staff deserves kudos, not unfair criticism of their appreciated efforts.

Bias in the newsroom

 But the politicization of the station does not end with inappropriate racial comments and attitudes.   During the last few months, Mr. Martinez hired a social justice reporter, Lilly Ann Fowler, who has an active Twitter account that expresses highly politicized views. Specifically, she has repeatedly retweeted messages critical of Israel, such as:


And there is Ms. Fowler’s history of tweets calling for an end to Israel or criticizing ultra-orthodox Jews.

One might ask whether individuals calling for the end of Israel and making fun of religious Jews should be on the news staff for a major National Public Radio (NPR) station.  

The NPR code of ethics is quite clear: members of NPR news staff should not use social media to express their political opinions.  Doing so undermines the confidence of NPR listeners in the objectivity of NPR as a news source.   The NPR Ethics Handbook states:

“Refrain from advocating for political or other polarizing issues online. This extends to joining online groups or using social media in any form. Don't express personal views on a political or other controversial issues that you could not write for the air or post on NPR.org”

Rejection of viewpoint diversity and factual information when it contradicts the political narrative

 KNKX, under Mr. Martinez, has skewed politically in its coverage and tone, evincing substantial bias in its journalism.  And part of this trend has been the suppression of viewpoints not popular to those with a far-left perspective. 

My case is a potent one.    Because some misinformed environmental activists did not like the peer-reviewed science expressed on my blog and radio segment, they put pressure on KNKX management to end my weather program.   In response, I was told to refrain from talking about climate change during my radio segment.   KNKX listeners were being denied the best information on climate change because uninformed special interest groups objected.

Then the 350Seattle social justice advocacy group circulated an online petition to get my segment terminated.  Instead of defending good science and diversity of viewpoint, Mr. Martinez agreed to have my science, BOTH in my weather segment and in my blog, reviewed.  And he assigned the responsibility to oversee the review to a long-time member of 350Seattle.   In the end, even the reviewer had to agree that my science was solid.


The message was clear:  KNKX management gave little weight to truth, science, or democratic principles. They were more interested in placating activists and proving their “progressive” credentials.


Mr. Martinez and Station Manager, Joey Cohn, would soon take appeasement of the mob to a new level. On August 5, 2020, I published a blog (Seattle: A City in Fear Can Be Restored) that examined the decline of Seattle and the lack of political leadership. In that blog, I spoke out against political violence and noted similarities to 1930s Germany.  Within hours of the release of that blog, I received a call from Mr. Martinez and Mr. Cohn telling me that my weather segment was terminated.

They also put out a non-factual, hurtful statement on the KNKX website accusing me of “distorted, offensive parallels between protesters and Nazi Brownshirts”.  Diversity of viewpoint was clearly unacceptable to KNKX leadership.   Neither was the truth.  KNKX became the poster child of Cancel Culture.

Canceled

The truth is clear and powerfully supports my blog.  

The violent, black-bloc rioters I described have a political agenda to destabilize democratic society.  Just as the brownshirts had in undermining the Weimar Republic. They have brought Portland to its knees and done immense damage to Seattle.   Recently, a group of these individuals attacked Jews in Seattle (discussed here and here) and during the summer they preferentially targeted Jewish-owned businesses.  The destruction had the implicit support of several members of the Seattle city council, not unlike the brownshirts working with the Nazi party.  

The violent protestors had an agenda very different from the peaceful BLM protestors concerned about police violence and in promoting a more equitable society: the replacement of American society by a socialist/Marxist entity.  KNKX management took a side on this, implicitly supporting the violence.

Diversity of viewpoint is something you will no longer find at KNKX.  Their front page is dominated by social justice stories dealing with identity politics.   Take a look at a representative example below.    KNKX covers few stories on key issues, such as the pandemic, leadership failures, environmental issues, public safety, and the like.  Stories on identity politics are everpresent.  No wonder competitor KUOW has surged ahead of them in virtually every measure of audience interest.


 Interest in KNKX Declines

KNKX is losing online traffic.   As shown by the Google trends website, interest in KNKX has declined greatly during the five-year tenure of Mr. Martinez (see below, click to expand)

Confirmation of the profound loss of web interest is provided by the Amazon Alexa rankings site for the past 90 days, which shows a ranking loss of over 50,000  (see below).   KNKX advertisers must surely be noticing this.


Time to Reform KNKX

With the exit of Mr. Martinez, there is both a need and opportunity for KNKX to remake itself to better serve the community.   Joey Cohn, the General Manager, has particular responsibility for what now happens.

Political bias must be rejected.   Diversity of viewpoint should be respected.   Better programming that allows the community to engage in honest and fact-driven interactions should be fostered (such as panel discussions of important issues and call-in programs).  KNKX leadership must not longer be enthralled by the far-left mob and identity politics.  And yes, hopefully, my weather segment will be re-instated.

Media organizations, such as KNKX, have a special responsibility to maintain the foundations of our democratic society.  Democracy is a vulnerable institution.  It depends on the protection of diversity of viewpoints.  And it depends on factual information being communicated without the obstruction of political bias.

 Each of you can play an important role in transforming KNKX into something better.

First, let the station manager, Joey Cohn, know of your disappointment with the station’s trajectory (jcohn@knkx.org1-877-677-5659).  Similarly, Claire Grace (info@knkx.org), the head of the KNKX board.   Their listener support email is info@knkx.org and phone 1-877-677-5659.   

Second, if you are a financial contributor to the station, you might make further donations contingent on reform. 

KNKX can be repaired, but only if listeners and the community take a stand.

A Wet Period Ahead As Tropical Moisture Streams Northward. My Podcast Has the Details.

My new podcast is now online. You will learn about two major wet periods ahead, Sunday and Tuesday, with the potential for thunderstorms on ...