March 31, 2023

Why is Freezing at 32°F? And A Snowy Weekend Ahead in the Cascades. All in My New Podcast.

Did you ever wonder why freezing on the Fahrenheit scale is at 32?

Why that number?  Why not 0 or 50?

The answer to the question will be answered in my podcast! (see below for details)


And before the talk about temperature, I provide the forecast, and it is a snowy one for our mountains.

Today, a front will be moving through (see satellite photo below), behind which there is cool, unstable air.


This cool, unstable air, forced to rise on the local mountains, will produce heavy snow in the Cascades, with several feet at higher elevations.  Good for skiers, good for weather resources, but potentially causing dangerous conditions in the passes.

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Announcement.  I will be having a special online session for my Patreon supporters on Saturday at 10 AM.
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To listen to my podcast, use the link below or access it through your favorite podcast service.


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March 29, 2023

"Dry Storm" Hits Western Washington as a Major Cyclone Swirls Off the Coast

Did you notice how dry the air was yesterday over large portions of western Washington?  

Strangely enough, you can blame a huge storm over the Pacific Ocea!

To show you what was going on, below is a plot of the minimum relative humidities west of the Cascades on Tuesday.  In some locations, relative humidity dropped to under 20%!


A relative humidity forecast for 2 PM Tuesday predicted very low values (below 20%, brown colors) in western Washington and southwest BC.   Low values over eastern WA as well.

But why?

Yesterday's visible satellite image around 2 PM was impressive, with a deep low-pressure area in the center of the swirl and an extensive band of frontal cloud extending around the low to northern Oregon and then south into central California.


Associated with this storm, there was a strong low-level wind circulation.   Below are the forecast winds and heights (like pressure) at roughly 5000 ft (850 hPa).  You can see the intense low center off the CA/OR border.  Wow.    

Now, look at the wind barbs.  They indicated very strong easterly (from the east) winds over Washington and British Columbia.

Such winds not only bring in dry air from the continental interior but as the air descends the western slopes of the Cascades and coastal mountains, it is warmed by compression.  Warm air can hold more moisture than cooler air, and this caused relative humidity to plummet.  

Another factor is that the descending air starts higher up, where the air generally has less moisture.


In fact, the warming due to sinking air was very evident in yesterday's high temperatures, with max temperatures rising into the lower to mid-60s over northwest Washington (see below)

The giant low is now weakening and slowly moving southward (see an infrared satellite picture below for 8 AM today), and the easterly (from the east) flow to its north is weakening.  We will have another dry/warm day north of Tacoma, while to the south cloud bands and moisture will continue to circle around the low.
a

Needless to say, large amounts of moisture are now streaming from the Pacific into California.  If only they had built more reservoirs...
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Announcement.  I will be having a special online session for my Patreon supporters on Saturday at 10 AM.

March 27, 2023

Required Faculty Diversity (DEI) Statements Undermine the Future of the University of Washington and Other Colleges

At the University of Washington and many other academic institutions, applicants for faculty positions must complete a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) statement that describes their past actions in support of DEI and how they will foster DEI if appointed.  In addition, these required statements generally demand that the applicant express support or commitment to DEI principles.

As will be shown below, such DEI statements are of questionable legality, suppress viewpoint diversity, and politicize academic institutions.  They are destructive to the foundational values of academia, create a monoculture of opinion, act as a litmus test of political belief, and often hurt the groups they are meant to support.


DEI Represents the Politicization of the Academy

Although the terms diversity, equity, and inclusion superficially appear to be general and innocuous, the working definitions used in most universities are highly partisan and politicized.  Diversity generally refers to encouraging the representation of certain identity groups, based on race, color, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.  Equity refers to equal outcomes for all groups, not equality of opportunity.  And Inclusion generally only encompasses certain favored groups.

The political nature of such DEI ideas is highlighted by the huge differences in support of DEI across the political spectrum.  In a recent poll of 1491 faculty by the non-partisan group FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression), 75% of liberal or left-leaning faculty supported mandatory diversity statements while 90% of conservative faculty and 56% of politically moderate faculty saw them as inappropriate political litmus tests.  Several Republican-led states are abandoning DEI statements, in contrast to states where the Democratic Party is dominant.    Thus, DEI faculty statements require the support of ideas that are only favored by only one side of the political spectrum— the very definition of politicization.


Compelled Speech and Compelled Actions

The First Amendment bars the government from compelling people to express ideas they do not want to say.  Thus, it is illegal for a state university, such as the University of Washington, to compel faculty speech, and this is particularly egregious if the required speech is political in nature. 

To illustrate, a number of the current University of Washington faculty job announcements compel speech by requiring that the applicants state their commitment to DEI principles.  For example, the applicant for an Assistant Professor position of School Psychology in the UW College of Education must provide “a one-page diversity statement describing your experience and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”  This is clearly contrary to the First Amendment.

As noted by University of Chicago professor of law Brian Leiter “the new diversity statements require candidates to profess allegiance to a controversial set of moral and political views that have little or no relationship to a faculty member’s pedagogical and scholarly duties.”


Illegal compelled speech in DEI statements is such an obvious problem that one of the leading advocates of faculty DEI statements, University of California, Davis, Law Professor Brian Soucek has noted that such compelled speech regarding DEI should be avoided (he states this in a debate with Professor Leiter).  Instead, Professor Soucek recommends that DEI statements should only deal with actions:  past actions demonstrating support for DEI and promised future actions that will enhance DEI ideas and principles.  However, one should ask:  if compelled speech is illegal, how can compelled actions be less problematic?  Is it not worse to compel someone to take an action they disagree with than being forced to speak words they find problematic?   

The compelled speech of faculty DEI statements is similar in nature to the infamous University loyalty oaths of the late 1940s and early 1950s, where applicants had to attest to their commitment to American institutions and rejection of communist ideology.  The fostering of such loyalty statements by major universities (such as the University of Washington) is now seen as undemocratic and illegal, representing an unfortunate stain on the reputations of major academic institutions.

We don't need to repeat this

Abuse of Faculty DEI Statements

DEI statements have substantial potential for abuse, such as serving as a litmus test of political belief, screening out candidates of particular backgrounds and beliefs, or giving preference to candidates from specific racial, ethnic, or sexual orientation groups.  Such statements also have the potential to lessen the quality of faculty teaching, research, and service, or to reduce the diversity of viewpoints among college faculty.

At some institutions, such as some schools in the University of California system, DEI statements have been used to filter faculty candidates BEFORE their academic and teaching credentials were considered.  Thus, a brilliant potential faculty member destined for Nobel-Prize-level contributions would be rejected if her commitment to DEI was not sufficient.  For example, certain rejection would occur for any faculty candidate whose statement simply noted that all students should be treated equally as individuals and that no student should be favored or penalized for their background.  Political views, rather than promise in research and teaching, is the key filter at the UC system.

The required California faculty DEI statement was used (illegally) to give preferences to those from certain races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations (affirmative action is prohibited by law in California).  We know this because of a summarizing report at the University of California, Berkeley, for 2018-2019. For a life-science cluster position, 896 individuals applied, with 54% being white, 26% Asian, 3% African American, and 13% of Hispanic background. Of these candidates, 679 (78%) were rejected because of their DEI statements before their research and teaching potential were considered.  After the DEI filtering review, only 14% were white (down from 54%), 59% were Hispanic (up from 13%), 18% were Asian (down from 26%), and 9% were Afro-Americans (up from 3%).  It is clear that profound racial discrimination and preferences occurred, with the DEI statement being the central tool.  Jim Crow racism was wrong, racism based on required DEI statements is also wrong.

Since there are no explicit measures for scoring DEI statements, such statements are inevitably subjective and reflect the opinions, prejudices, politics, and preferences of the faculty in each academic department.  More progressive/left-leaning disciplines, such as education, social work, and Global Public Health will tend to demand the most political commitment of faculty candidates, ensuring a viewpoint monoculture, a problematic situation for an academic community where ideas need to be challenged and probed.

A potent example is found in a current job announcement for an Assistant Teaching Professor in Global Health at the University of Washington.

"We are dedicated to hiring faculty who model the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, anti-racism, and the decolonization of global health through all elements of their academic portfolio.  We view equity and social justice as essential to our mission of building health excellence. The successful applicant will be expected to embody these values in their teaching, mentoring, and service activities, and in any research or practice activities in which they engage. To be considered for this position, all applicants must have a demonstrated commitment to antiracist and decolonizing principles, and a willingness to continue growing new skills in alignment with our school’s EDI Roadmap. "  

An applicant with moderate or conservative views, or not willing to “align” with the school’s EDI roadmap, would be rejected.  So much for diversity of viewpoint in that department.

The politicization is also occurring in more moderate STEM departments.  For example, a young faculty member in a UW engineering department opposed an initiative to have faculty DEI statements required of present faculty (when they came up for advancement).   Some left-leaning members of his department then opposed a merit raise for him.  Fortunately, other faculty objected to such inappropriate politicization, and the raise was approved.  Not surprisingly, this highly promising faculty member decided to leave the UW the following year.   There are stories like this in other departments.

No Evidence that Mandatory DEI Statements Produce Benefits

One would think that before universities required DEI statements from thousands of faculty applicants, with considerable effort and expense required for their generation and review, some evidence of the value and efficacy of such statements would be required.  Surprisingly, no such evidence exists.  An extensive search of the academic literature finds no published studies documenting the value of faculty DEI statements, and inquiries to DEI statement supporters reveal they have no evidence to cite.   In contrast, faculty DEI statements have substantial potential to cause harm and division.

It is important to note that faculty candidates can always voluntarily note any contributions or interest in DEI in their faculty applications.  


Just the Tip of The Iceberg

Faculty DEI statements are just one example of a massive transformation that has undermined American institutions of higher learning.   Universities like the UW have put huge resources into a DEI bureaucracy and associated programs, which has led to a reduction in faculty and student viewpoint diversity.  Many faculty are afraid to speak their minds on controversial topics.  The large financial outlays for highly paid diversity Deans, staff, and “advisors” have reduced support for teaching and research and increased the cost of college tuition.  The recent events at Stanford Law School, where a diversity dean hectored a visiting speaker, is only one example of the profound deterioration that has occurred at leading universities.

Summary

If one wanted to design a measure to undermine the essential foundations of an academic institution, few would be more effective than mandatory DEI statements for new faculty.  It reduces the diversity of viewpoints of new faculty and encourages a faculty monoculture of similar political and social ideas on one side of the political spectrum.  It undermines academic quality by steering decision-making away from the teaching and research capabilities of prospective new faculty to a consideration of their social and political views.  Both academic institutions and their students suffer as a result, with no studies showing evidence of any benefit.  On top of these obvious problems, DEI statements often represent illegal compelled speech.

If you agree that mandatory faculty DEI statements are a bad idea, let the UW know about it.  Talking to your state legislator is also a good idea.

Faculty Senate: senate@uw.edu.
UW Vice President for Diversity: vpomad@uw.edu

Important Update

This analysis was sent to the email listserv of the UW Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).   AAUP has the mission to protect faculty freedom and played an important role in protesting the loyalty statements and restrictions on faculty speech during the late 40s and 50s.   UW AAUP refused to publish my contribution on their listserv, with the moderator calling the above message "spam."   UW AAUP has been captured by a group of partisan activists who regularly censor viewpoints different from their own.  Ironically, their actions prove several of the points noted above.

March 25, 2023

A Powerful Coastal Storm Approaches

On Monday and Tuesday, a powerful Pacific cyclone will intensify off the northern California/southern Oregon coasts.   A storm that would be notable in mid-winter, but very unusual in late March.

Below is the forecast sea level pressure chart for 2 AM Tuesday morning.  Also shown are the near-surface wind barbs and low-level temperature (shading).  

Just wow.   A very deep low-pressure center (985 hPa) with a huge gradient of sea level pressure, which means strong winds.  It almost looks like it has an inner eye!


A simulated cloud field for nearly the same time is downright scary (see below).  As you might suspect, the low center is in the middle of the swirling cloud bands.  Looks like something out of a science-fiction movie.

With such strong pressure gradients (pressure differences over distance), you can expect powerful low-level winds.   Below are the predicted wind gusts for the same time as the pressure analysis above.   A ring of strong winds surrounds the low, with the most powerful gusts to the west and south of the low center (as high as 60 knots, orange color).  

This structure is classic for strong marine cyclones.  The strong wind area is something called "the poisonous tail of the bent-back occlusion.'


Needless to say, if you are in the maritime industry it would be better to avoid being offshore Monday through Wednesday.

The extraordinary thing about this low is that it will spin offshore for an extended period, slowing weakening over time (the forecast map 24 h later is shown below)


As I noted above, such a low off the coast is unusual.  The map below gives some information on how unusual (colors).  The light pink indicates pressures that are more than 4 standard deviations from average (normal) values.   That is rare.


As you are probably sick of me pointing out, this situation reflects the anomalous atmospheric circulation we have "enjoyed" for the last month or so, with the jet stream going far south of its normal location.

Finally, with this low going south of us, so will the weather action for the next few days.  As a result, there will be very heavy rain over central and northern California (see below).    Yes, they are getting our water.


A few individuals were unhappy that I noted that the drought is over in California.  Well folks, the objective evidence is absolutely clear:  the drought is finished.  Kaput.  You can speculate why some people don't want to accept this.  Take a look at the graphic below if you have any doubts.  Normal is the gray, the yellow is this year.  Just stunning.





March 23, 2023

Cool air and snow showers on Friday for the western lowlands. More crazy stuff in California.

 No, there won't be accumulating snow near sea level, but don't be surprised if you see a few flakes west of the Cascade crest on Friday,

The visible satellite image this morning (below) shows a strong spring-time front about to make landfall on the coast, with a swirl of clouds associated with a low-pressure area evident offshore.  To the west, you can see the mottled, white and dark cloud areas associated with great instability, instability caused by cold air passing over warm water.    That air is our future.


This area of cold air is coming to us all the way from Alaska, as shown by a wider-area satellite image.  Call it the Aleutian Express.


The trouble for low-elevation snow lovers is that this maritime air (called a marine polar, MP, air mass) is generally too warm for any lowland snow.   But it is the perfect pattern for heavy snow in the Cascades.

Below is the forecast SNOWFALL total through 11 PM Friday. Some very light snow south of Tacoma, with more over southwest Washington.   Not only will the temperatures be marginal, but with the flow off the ocean being northwesterly,  Puget Sound will be rain shadowed (or snow-shadowed) by the Olympics.

The Columbia Basin will also be rain shadowed, but the mountains will enjoy as much as a foot of new powder.


On Friday and Saturday, the lowlands will not get above the upper 40s, substantially cooler than normal.

California Madness

It is hard to believe, but ANOTHER powerful, record-breaking spring storm is being predicted for California.  Below is the forecast sea level pressure and surface winds for 11 PM Monday, when a deep, intense low center will approach the coast north of San Francisco.


Will California get heavy precipitation from this system?   Do kids like ice cream?

Take a look at the forecast precipitation totals through Wednesday morning. 3-7 inches more precipitation over the Sierra Nevada and northern CA.   Perhaps the U.S. Drought Monitor will FINALLY drop severe drought over northern California.  Just silly.


March 21, 2023

Record Breaking Storm Hits California. Snow Showers for Seattle. Accumulating Snow in Portland.

Today a record-breaking intense midlatitude cyclone has hit California--the strongest on record this late in the season.   Take a look at the visible satellite image around 5 PM (below).  An intense low center is at the center of the cloud swirl near San Francisco.  While western WA and OR were high and dry!


At San Francisco, the pressure fell to 985 hPa, the lowest pressure ever observed at that location in March.  The weather observations at 4 PM showed the circulation of winds around the low, with gusts at that time reaching 46 mph at the airport.   

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A plane from Seattle to Monterey even had to abort its landing this afternoon due to large low-level wind shear. Moderate to severe turbulence was observed over much of California (see below, red is severe, yellow moderate).  Not a good day to fly.


The National Weather Service radars along the CA coast revealed intense small-scale circulations embedded in the larger-scale low off the coast (see below).  Just stunning.


Lowland Snow in the Northwest

Normally, lowland snow is not an issue at lower elevations in the Northwest after early March.  But much colder air will move into the Northwest later this week and there could be some snowflakes on Friday over western Washington and accumulating snow around Portland.  The accumulated snowfall (not snowdepth) forecast through Saturday morning shows some light snowshowers over portions of the western lowlands.   Substantial snow over the mountains.


Distrurbingly, southwest Washington and Portland areas gets more--several inches, with around a half-foot in a band south of downtown Portland.  Portland is becoming the new Anchorage.😆


For some perspective, here are the record daily spring snowfall totals (March 20th and later) for Portland for the period from 1939 to today.   The record is 1.6 inches.  More is predicted by the UW WRF forecast.


In short, although there is substantial uncertainty for the lowland snowfall, there is a clear threat of lowland snow showers-- a rare treat this time of the year.

March 19, 2023

La Nina Is Dead. El Nino will replace it. What are the implications? All in my new podcast.

My new podcast (see below to access), reviews the major changes occurring in the tropics and what they imply for our future weather.

Our long-lived (3-year) La Nina is over, with the sea surface temperatures in the Nino3.4 area now nearly exactly normal (see below)



The Pacific sea surface temperatures went from about 1C cooler than normal in December to near normal today

The latest NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) forecast is for the probability of El Nino conditions to be over 50% by next fall.

As described in the podcast, the typical atmospheric configuration with El Nino is a low-pressure area over the Gulf of Mexico, warmer than normal conditions over the Northwest, and wetter than normal conditions over southern and central California (see below).  But as demonstrated this year, long-term prediction has substantial uncertainties, with the guidance based on El Nino/La Nina more like weighting the atmospheric dice.



To listen to my podcast, use the link below or access it through your favorite podcast service.


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March 17, 2023

Massive Migration Occurring Aloft and Even Warmer on Saturday

 This is the season for northward bird migration and the weather is now perfect for northward flight.

As a result, there is a massive northward movement of birds occurring and the weather radars are lighting up with birds each night.

As I noted in previous blogs, many birds prefer to fly at night, so let me show you the regional radar imagery over the past 24 h.

5 PM yesterday (Thursday) there was nothing


At 2 AM, bird returns were everywhere with radar coverage.  Notice our birdy friends don't like to fly offshore.   You can also see where we lack low-level radar coverage, like the central and southern Oregon coast and eastern Oregon.  Oregon bird watchers need to complain!


This morning at 8 AM, the birds are gone.


I rarely show Dopper radar imagery (which shows winds towards or away from the radar), but here is last night's image from the Langley Hill radar in Hoquiam (the radar is in the center of the circles).  Green indicates the targets (birds) are approaching the radar, red shows targets moving away.

The radar targets are going northward!


There is a nice website Birdcast, which collects all the radar information and shows migration patterns over the US.  Here is theeir graphic from last night, with arrows showing the direction of migration.  A large northward movement of birds along the West Coast.


I have noted that birds are a bit picky about nighttime flying weather.

They don't like heavy rain and stormy periods.  They also appear to appreciate a tailwind.  

And last night they had one.    Below are the winds overnight at 700 hPa (about 10,000 ft).  The little barbs show the direction and speed.  Southerly and southwesterly flow (from the south to the southwest) was apparent.  Not too strong.  Just like our feathered friends prefer.


Heatwave

    Today will get near 60F in western Washington and some places will get into the lower 60s on Saturday.  Take a look at the forecast surface air temperatures on Saturday at 5 PM (below).  Red is warmer than green and blue.  Wow.  Lower 60s all over the place in the western interior.


Warm southerly (from the south) winds aloft plus low-level downslope (easterly) winds over the Cascades are the reasons for the warmth.  This will be the warmest period since last October (see plot below, with 60F highlighted).  And it will feel good.


Have a good St. Patrick's Day.



First Lowland Snow over Western Washington

It is snowing right now in some favored locations in western Washington....yes, snow falling to sea level. Take a look at a video provided b...