Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year and a New Pattern

Wednesday, December 30, 2009
10:01 P.M.
Greetings, my friends and fellow weather lovers. As 2009 draws to a close, we can look toward one thing in the weather department - a more active weather pattern. All I can say to this is it is about time. Let's take a look at our coming system.

This picture shows the 3 hour precip ending at 7 A.M. tomorrow. As you can see, most of the energy is headed into Oregon. Washington will still get wet later in the day tomorrow though, as the front picks up strength and moisture as it undergoes frontogenesis. What I'm really looking forward to though are the post-frontal showers after the storm.

This pic shows the 24 hour snow totals expected as of 4 P.M. New Years day. As you can see, the Olympics will see tons of snow and the Cascades will see lesser but still large amounts. I still need to get some first turns in, and hopefully this mountain snow will goad me to get off my butt and start skiing.

Happy New Year everybody! Enjoy a more active weather pattern! (and more blog posts by me as a result)


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Not much going on

Sunday, December 27, 2009
10:02 P.M.

Greetings everybody! I have to say, I'm not all that sorry that I haven't updated this blog because the weather has been unbearably boring. Most people like this "nice" weather but for me "nice" weather consists of floods, hurricane-force winds, and lightning powerful to make the galaxy rumble. That's right. The galaxy. I did get some excitement with regard to booms in my life when I shot my first shotgun today (I've already shot rifles) and I look forward to getting my hunters safety liscence and hunting in the future. However, even the boring weather created treacherous conditions on some of the regional roads, with my dad's Chevrolet Suburban fishtailing all over local streets on Whidbey Island.

We've been stuck in a pattern of inversion lately, with air above us slightly warmer than that at ground level. This is because when the air is stagnant enough, warm air will rise and cool air will sink, since warm air is lighter than cool air.

We will see a weak system Tuesday, followed by one a little stronger New Year's Eve into New Year's Day. Details get fuzzy after that but I don't see any strong storms in the near future and with El Nino taking more of a hold I don't really expect much in the way of severe weather for the rest of the winter in the Pacific Northwest. The mountains will also have their troubles getting some snowpack. But hey, it doesn't hurt to do a dance or two. :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Global Warming Misconceptions

Monday, December 21, 2009
11:29 P.M.

Hey everybody! There's not much to talk about in terms of weather, seeing as the pattern is pretty benign right now, but as I'm sure you are all aware of (or at least most), there was a large climate conference called Climategate. I'm not sure where exactly it was, but it was international. Cliff Mass talked about it on his blog, and I highly encourage you to check his blog out, but here are some biases I've noticed about global warming from people around and about.

Since Seattle is fairly liberal, most people here seem to think that global warming is going to do all sorts of crazy things. They think that Seattle is going to get hammered by hurricanes and snow on back to back days. Or they point to a single storm and say "global warming was solely responsible for that storm." I was on facebook the other day looking at some group or something calling for Obama to stand up for America on leading the world in an effort to reduce CO2 emissions (something I am very frustrated with - he has not kept his promises here) and all over the wall I saw people saying that global warming was going to result in snowstorms in Florida or just crazy weather anomalies that have no scientific basis, and that the whole reason the snowstorm on the east coast was occurring was because of climate change (that was quite a storm too!). It frustrates me because when I try to explain that that is not what global warming is I get dismissed as one of the "non-believers" and that people like me are going to end up destroying the world. Kinda frustrating. :(

On the other hand, there are the more conservative types who believe global warming is a hoax. There are not as many of them in Seattle but there are lots in our country. The evidence is clearly there. CO2 levels have risen dramatically since the beginning of the industrial revolution, arctic ice is melting, average temperatures have risen, etc. Of course, these people say that these don't have anything to do with man made global warming because the Earth's climate goes in phases. The Earth's climate does go in phases, but this warming has been brought on by an increase in CO2. I'm a skeptic on most things but the evidence for global warming occuring is on par with that for evolution.

The problem is that the people who have it "right" often don't get their ideas published before they are construed and edited by biased editors, so the "truth" remains relatively behind the scenes. The moderate side is the correct one in this issue, but there are only two real sides that dominate America right now, and those are the conservatives and liberals. Can't we just look at the facts and use common sense? Is that too much to ask? I'm a moderate myself and sometimes it seems like it is...
Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Not much to talk about

Thursday, December 17, 2009
9:45 P.M.

Greetings everybody, and I hope you had a good Thursday. I'm just going to make this brief because the forecast is looking essentially the same as yesterday and there isn't really much to talk about. The only thing of real interest is that the GFS now shows temps a little cooler, with lows perhaps getting around to 30 mid week, and if you couple that with a passing shower, we could see snow, but no accumulations. Other than that, not much is going on. The majority of the cold air will be passing to our east, and after about Christmas Eve we will return to a sunnier and slightly warmer regime as a ridge off the Pacific slides over the area. Have a good night!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Heavy Showers Now

Wednesday, December 16, 2009
3:28 P.M.

Hey everybody! Look at the radar! As you can see, heavy post-frontal showers are swinging through the region after a warm front passed through today. This radar image provides a good example of what orographic enhancement is. Look at the Cascades. There are much more showers around them than around the sound. Why? Because when the westward-traveling air is forced up the topography there, it condenses into clouds, and the cloud droplets later condense into precipitation.
The weather upcoming is pretty non-eventful... snow is completely out of the question (my brother is still in denial that we didn't get any... I'm telling him to blame the news stations and not me). Another storm will arrive Thursday while Friday will have a few showers, and Saturday will largely be dry. After that, models diverge, but the ECMWF (more accurate) model gives us sorta rainy conditions but nothing too serious while our GFS model builds a strong ridge over the area. zzzzz... I'm hoping for the former. Highs would be above average (around 50) throughout the period in both scenarios.
I'm glad I walked on my pond when I did!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Don't get too excited

Monday December 14, 2009

7:11 P.M.

I've had a lot of people come up to me today and desperately ask me if we are going to get snow tonight and possibly have a two hour late start tonight. Here is the answer. Absolutely not. The Seattle area will see no snow at all. The only areas where it is possible to see snow in the lowlands are over by Hood Canal where the cold air gets trapped up against the Olympics and over in the North Interior, where there may be perhaps an inch before it turns over to rain, although some spots by Hood Canal could actually see rather significant amounts. We'll see how things play out and how quickly the cold air is scoured out. In any event, there will be no snow here. Get your homework done because there is an absolutely 0% chance of school starting late/not occuring tomorrow. No snow with this cold shot. Oh well. We still got the rest of the winter ahead of us to see if we can, however, since it is an El Nino year, our odds on the whole of seeing any are reduced somewhat.
As you can see with the radar image, there is currently moderate rain over the region. We are now entering a much warmer and wetter pattern compared to what we have seen. Our biggest event this week will probably be some rain overnight Tuesday into Wednesday but there aren't really any major storms on the horizon. More on that tomorrow. Also, the mountains are currently getting snow right now, but expect freezing levels to rise as the week goes on, with possibly mixed rain or snow or even all rain occuring at some of the passes.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

No snow

Sunday, December 13, 2009
11:22 P.M.

Sorry guys for not updating this earlier. I've been out and about all day doing chores and the time I have been home has been spent working on homework. Nevertheless, there is about a one percent chance of snow tonight, and that would be if an arctic front sweeped through the area and brought some moisture with it, but that looks very unlikely.

As usual the news stations hyped this event up wayyy to much and never even talked about a rainshadow over Puget Sound. The rainshadow (snowshadow) was even stronger than the models predicted, so we got nothing while areas to the north, south, and east of us did.

Tomorrow I think will start off as just rain, but places like the North Interior and Hood Canal will have it start off as snow before changing to rain Monday night, with Hood Canal possibly receiving as much as 8 inches in some spots! The cold air really gets trapped there.

Sorry guys. It is what it is. See you tomorrow.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009
2:09 P.M.

As time rolls on, the details for this forecast are becoming clearer. We are not going to see a major snowstorm, and we are now only really looking at one possibility of snow (Sunday night). We could still see some snow Monday night though.

As you can see, the amounts over Seattle are not very impressive. The 4km mm5 GFS model gives us an inch of snow tops. Still, that is more than enough to cause a 2 hour late start because it will likely stick to the roads since they are so cold.
A convergence zone will form up north by snohomish county (see the two bands of snow there) and a secondary one, more like an arctic frontal boundry, will form over the San Juans.
Monday will be our last cold day. Snow may fall for a brief period in the afternoon before switching over to a cold rain later at night. Later in the week, temperatures will rebound to the upper 40s and a more rainy pattern will take hold. Some of the rain could be quite heavy. Look at the above storm! Been a while since we've seen something like that.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Updated Forecast

Friday, December 11, 2009
1:09 A.M. (yes, you heard that right. I took a huge nap this afternoon so I'm wide awake now)
The models are still in very, very little consensus on what is going to happen. Scott Sistek of Komo4 said he wished that there was a question mark icon for the forecast because if there was he would put it up there in a heartbeat. I'm not exaggerating. Meteorologists around the city have little to no clue as to what to expect. Models are completely all over the map, and even the same models have wildly different runs by the quarter day.
Let's take a review of what happened today (or technically yesterday). Yesterday started off very, VERY cold because of excellent radiational cooling in the atmosphere. Light winds, low humidity, and clear skies allowed the low in Seattle to reach a bone-chilling 16 degrees. That is very cold, colder than any time last year (even though last year had more snow). There is a little pond up by my house that I have been able to walk on because it has been so cold! However, I only walk on it with supervision and very carefully and because the pond is only about 3 feet deep at its deepest. I do not encourage walking on ponds unless you are sure of the thickness of the ice. It should be at least 4 inches before you walk on it. The ice on the pond by my house is around 2 inches or less but I can still walk on it, probably because it is very strong ice (it is completely clear, which I'm assuming means it is strong). The high got above freezing today as temperatures warmed 2-6 degrees from yesterday as some warmer air drifted into the region, but tomorrow will be perhaps a little cooler simply because some clouds will prevent the sun from heating anything up too much.
Another thing of interest, which Cliff Mass mentioned on his blog this afternoon and I saw this morning as my dad drove me to school, was the steam rising off the lake. The lake is around 50 degrees and the air was around 20 in most places by sunrise, so the relatively warm, moist air rising off the lake was visible as it condensed in the very cold temperatures. There was also very little wind so it was very visible. I really don't like to steal and I hope Professor Mass does not consider this plaigarism, as I did get this picture from his blog, but this is what I saw this morning and I was absolutely amazed. Check out his blog at for more (and better) weather forecasts and a note about the steam fog.
Anyways, models are showing a decent shot of snow to the south of us Friday night through Saturday as a low pressure system spins some moisture up north, but it probably won't quite reach us. At the same time, a weak disturbance will drop out of the north, bringing snow to perhaps as far south as Everett, but probably not all the way to Seattle. We will have to see though - Seattle may very well not be in the gap between storms, and we could see a couple flurries here and there, but I'm not expecting any accumulations over a 1/2 inch.

The bigger chances for snow are Sunday and late Monday night, and these events are the ones the models are having so much trouble with. The one on Sunday doesn't look to cause much in the way of snow right now, as it is pegged a little further east than optimal and is relatively dry. The NAM, another American model, gives it more juice, which could give us a more widespread snow, but that doesn't look likely. The GFS puts a convergence zone in north Seattle, which could drop some snow there while leaving the Seattle proper area dry, or the zone could be a little further north or south than forecasted. Anyways, you get the point - difficult forecast. But as you can see, even the drier mm5-gfs does show some snow over the region.

The next shot (Monday night) also gives us a chance for snow. The moisture will be there, but will the temperatures be cold enough? The Euro says no. The GFS used to call for a major snow event (see previous post). The GFS now calls for snow north, perhaps spreading southward. Your guess is as good as mine, but I'd go with the Euro in this situation, as it has been the most consistent. But I'd happily be proven wrong. The above graphic is what the GFS is predicting - see the snow north of Seattle but rain southward.

In any event, we will see heavy rain next week and get back to rainy weather. Remember what that stuff is like?

Stay warm!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I quote Abe Stephenson from September 23, 2009 at 9:05 P.M.

"ok i think there is one question on everyone's mind.... or maybe just mine.


I quote this becuase this weather forecast has kind of given me an insight into what it must be like if you don't really know what weather is coming, because frankly, I have little to no clue if we are going to see snow or not. Let's give a rundown of what is coming our way.

First, the next few nights and days will be continued cold, but they will moderate a little bit. Instead of highs being stuck below freezing and lows plummetting into the single digits in outlying areas, highs should make it into the mid 30s Thursday and the upper 30s Friday and Saturday. Humidity and clouds will also be on the increase, but this shouldn't give Washington much precipitation besides a couple snow flurries. The biggest effect that these will have is to keep temperatures much warmer at night, with lows around 30 both of these days. The models are in fairly consistent agreement about that. Then, things get much more complicated.

The forecasting models have basically been flip flopping between 3 completely different scenarios for the weekend and early next week. One has a light snow-to-rain event Sunday, another one has just rain showers Sunday, and another one, the mm5 GFS, shows a major snowstorm Monday night into Tuesday after fairly dry weather Sunday. Before you kids get too excited about the words "major snowstorm," that is just what a model is predicting, and I don't trust it (or any of the models at all). Still, I do like to ponder about big storms, so the above diagram indicates the snowfall from the 24 hour period from 4 P.M. Monday to 4 A.M. Tuesday.
The bottom line here is that the forecasters are really freaked out because it is inevitable that they will end up somewhere with an egg on their face. There is no consensus in the models in a rapidly approaching situation, and when snow is involved, this spells disaster. If I were to guess, I'd say we'd see only rain for most of this, just because so many things have to occur for snow to fall here. Thanks for bearing with me and I'll keep you posted!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Here comes the cold (dadadada) + What's up with Probcast?

December 5, 2009
9:46 P.M.
Greetings. Looking at the latest radar image, it does not seem like we are going to get much in the way of snow tonight, as most of the snow appears to be heading east of the area. Most of it is wrapped around the northeastern corner of the Olympics by Sequim. Here, northeasterly winds flowing out from the Fraser River Valley pick up moisture as they come across the strait, and as they slam into the mountains by Sequim, clouds and precipitation (usually in the form of snow) are created. The ironic thing is that the Olympics usually keep Sequim dry; most of our weather comes from the southwest, leaving Sequim on the drier, lee side of most storms. However, when winds come from the northeast, orographic (topographically enhanced) precipitation occurs around Sequim and other areas around there. There is also some snow extending southward from there, but it is quite light and accumulations should not amount to much. Sequim should see several inches of snow, and as long as we are getting these arctic outflow winds from the Fraser River Valley, I can't think of any reason why this "Strait Effect" snow would stop.
Let's take a look at one of my favorite charts of them all, the UW mm5 1000-500 mb thickness chart. Remember, this is the thickness in linear units of the atmosphere, and is good for giving an approximation of how warm or cold the air is. Since cold air is more dense, it will have a lower thickness within the same millibar levels. The inverse is true for hot air. So the tropics have much higher thickness levels than the polar regions.

As you can see with this guy, very cold arctic air is seeping into our region from Canada. However, the highs here during this period are expected to be much higher than places further east with similar thicknesses. We should see a high of around 30 Monday, but Butte, Montana, will be lucky to get a positive value for a high. Why is this? You see, when we have arctic outbreaks, the air flows out of the Fraser River valley, but due to the many decreases in elevation it undergoes as it makes its way southward, it warms up and is significantly modified. If we didn't have the Cascades or Rockies blocking us from this cold air, we would get quite a bit more snow days.

I am expecting highs in the low 30s tomorrow and around 30 Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday will be warmer, with highs in the mid 30s and around 40 respectively. It will be sunny and dry all of these days. Sorry guys. :(

I should note that it is possible that the cold weather will stick around longer though, because sometimes the cold air at the surface is tough to scour out even as more moderating Pacific air overrides it.

Speaking of Pacific air, we will start to see some more moisture work its way into our region later in the week, but by then, highs will be in the low 40s, so I'm not expecting much in the ways of snow. That said, details can change, and it is very possible that we may see a fringe snow event. But I am expecting nothing like last year.

One thing that I noticed people talking on Cliff Mass' blog about and that Garfield sophomore Nicholas Efthimiadis (a self-proclaimed weather nut in his own right) were the completely wacky predictions made by Probcast, a forecast model that works using probability and statistics to convey to probabilities of different outcomes occuring as opposed to just having one model run and trying to make a forecast after that. It is Cliff Mass' project, and is extremely accurate in most cases.

Right now, though, it is not accurate at all. The image above is a mapped prediction of low temperatures for Monday night in the region. It is expecting Seattle to have a low of 7 degrees. That's soooooo cold! It says the lowest we could possibly get is 3 degrees (which would be one of the coldest nights ever) and the highest we could get is 12 degrees (which would still be among some of the colder nights ever). I don't have to overthink this scenario. Probcast is wrong. Although I wish it wasn't, it is. I wonder what exactly is up with it.

I'll keep you guys posted. Keep reading, and let me know what you like! This blog exists because of you - otherwise I'd just keep a weather journal or something. Have a good weekend and bundle up!


Friday, December 4, 2009

I'm back! And here's a discussion on the cold/snow

December 4, 2009
9:40 P.M.

I'm back! Not from some trip to some exotic locale or anything like that. I'm just literally back on this website, as my overload of homework forced me to put this blog on hiatus for several days. Nevertheless, I'm here now, and we have a lot to talk about.

Since early this week, people have been talking about the snow rumors, which has been very surprising to me. Why? I never noticed the news stations hyping it up much, and people were even asking me questions about snow when the different global models were in disagreement. Although I didn't hear about this on the news stations, it must have been both their fault and that of the National Weather Service. Both of these organizations hype up snow. The t.v. stations you know about. News about snow attracts lots of viewers, and lots of viewers = more money. As for the National Weather Service here, I think that they get giddy when it comes to snow. I actually read an article in a magazine that there is a dispute in the way things are forecasted between Cliff Mass in the UW and the National Weather Service office in Seattle, with Cliff going with near 100 percent model output and the National Weather Service adding in human elements where they deem necessary. Just two different views on forecasting, and I believe both have their ups and downs. It is very important that a minimum amount of human bias is incorporated into forecasts in most situtations in my opinion, but if a storm is developing differently than the models show it, you obviously can't rely on them.

Ok, let's talk weather. What we have is a large ridge of high pressure containing modified, continental arctic air dropping down from the north. The air coming into Washington, due to the rules of adiabatic warming (air warms, dries, and compresses as it decreases in altitude), will be toasty compared to what it once was, but it will still be pretty chilly here. Bellingham will have highs in the low 30s pretty much all next week, while the Puget Sound area will see highs in the low to mid 30s from Sunday to Tuesday and highs in the upper 30s tomorrow and moderating to the mid 30s later next week. Although it's not frigid, and defintely not as cold as last year, that's some pretty cold weather. But most of you guys aren't checking this blog to find out how cold the weather is. You are checking it to find out if it is gonna SNOW!!!

Unfortunately, I'm not seeing any real possibilities of snow over the next couple days. As the shot of arctic air comes down from the north tomorrow, we could see some showers associated with a arctic front Saturday night, but accumulations, if any, will likely be light. That said, the weather will be cold after that, so if there are any accumulations, there could be significant icing. An arctic front event happened in late November 2006, and even though snow amounts in the Seattle area generally amounted to an inch or so, the cars melted the snow as they drove over it, with the frigid arctic air freezing the ice to the roadways shortly afterwards. So, if we do see significant snowfall with this feature (which is possible - these fronts, which often exhibit convergence-zone like properties, can be very hard to forecast correctly), we could see some late starts next week. But don't get your hopes up.

More significant moisture arrives next week, with the ECMWF painting a possible snow scenario Thursday or something like that. It brings a system to our south, which would give us moisture to work with while drawing winds from the north so that we don't warm up. However, the GFS keeps us dry. We'll see what happens.

Stay tuned, fellow weather enthusiasts! I'll keep you posted! And I'll also talk about how this cold snap compares with the one last year in my next post.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009


December 1, 2009
9:30 P.M.

Hey guys. I just wanted to let you know I'm still alive. Unfortunately I will not have time to do a forecast update tonight and I probably won't tomorrow. I'm just writing here to check in. I might as well give you a general forecast, so it is looking like cool and partly cloudy for the most part with a few sprinkles