Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sierra Snow

Monday, February 24, 2014
10:54 p.m.

99 closures of Snoqualmie Pass, 99-minute lift-lines. Take one down, pass it around, 98 closures of Snoqualmie Pass.

That's certainly what it's felt like for most of this month. We have been battered again and again by storm after storm, and our once measly snowfall, which was below 50% of normal in many places in our region, is now normal nearly everywhere. Folks, this type of recovery is amazing, and is akin to a hypothetical Denver Broncos comeback down 29-0 after Percy Harvin's kick return for a touchdown to start the second half. Of course, the key word here is "hypothetical." Forget Peyton Manning, it looked like Papa John was throwing those passes.

But what about Southern Oregon and California? As bad as our situation was, their situation was far worse. While we were 40-50% of normal, Southern Oregon was 10-20% of normal, and California was 20-30% of normal. Folks, this is frightening news for their summer water supply. The parade of storms to recently hit us was primarily aimed in our direction, and the mountains of Southern Oregon and California did not get nearly the amount of snow that we got.


The picture above compares the amount of water content in the snowpack now to the average for this time of year. As you can see, it is right about average in our neck of the woods, decreasing as you go southward. Even the 60s in Northern Oregon aren't too bad. But by the time you get to Medford in Southern Oregon, the snowpack is pitiful. Things get marginally better as you go to the Central Sierras, but not in a statistically significant manner - you go from 35% of normal to 40% of normal. Things are just downright despicable in Arizona and New Mexico, with several stations in the single digits. One station doesn't have any snowfall at all. In a manner similar to Kam Chancellor blasting Vernon Davis into the next area code, these guys are gonna be in a world of pain if they don't get any snow.

But, it just so turns out that they will get some snow! We'll get a nice little break from the action, and although I must confess that I'd like to keep the snow a'comin here in the Cascades, I've got some California Love embedded in me as well, and I'd like to see those guys be blessed with the same good fortune that we have had. They WILL NOT have the same never-ending, atrociously awesome series of storms that we've been fortunate enough to have, but they will get a foot or more in the Sierras. When you are this far below average, a little bit of snow goes a long way.

Valid 04:00 pm PST, Sat 01 Mar 2014 - 120hr Fcst:     http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~ovens/wxloop.cgi?mm5d2_x_msnow72+///3

As you can see, the Sierras will get more snow than California. Two systems will roll through... one during the Wednesday-Thursday time frame (pictured below)

Valid 07:00 pm PST, Wed 26 Feb 2014 - 51hr Fcst:   http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~ovens/wxloop.cgi?mm5d1_x_pcp3+///3

... and one that will stall off Southern California Friday morning through Saturday evening. This system will deliver some snow to Arizona and will bring that SNOTEL base above the 0% of normal mark. It will deliver some snow to the far northwestern end of New Mexico, but the places in the south - the places that really need the snow - will stay dry. Check out the 3-hour precipitation below to get a look at the structure of the storm, and then check out the snowfall associated with it.

Valid 04:00 am PST, Fri 28 Feb 2014 - 84hr Fcst:   http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~ovens/wxloop.cgi?mm5d1_x_pcp3+///3

And here's the 72-hour snowfall.

Valid 04:00 pm PST, Sat 01 Mar 2014 - 120hr Fcst:   http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~ovens/wxloop.cgi?mm5d1_x_msnow72+///3

Why are we having such a sudden southern shift in our storm track? Well, instead of having zonal flow off the Pacific, our pattern has shifted to one where we now have a trough of gargantuan proportions off of Southern Cali. Some precipitation will even make it to Baja California. Pretty amazing shift for a couple days if you ask me.

Valid 04:00 am PST, Fri 28 Feb 2014 - 84hr Fcst:   http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~ovens/wxloop.cgi?mm5d1_x_500vor+///3

Enjoy the break! Things look to stay calm and chilly for a while. No big storms or bluebird skies on the horizon. The European model is teasing us with some snow in the long range, but it's much too far away to be putting any faith in it.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Snow? No.

Saturday, February 22, 2014
11:21 p.m.

Well, at least not for Seattle.

The latest model runs have all been more aggressive with scouring the cold air that we have in place out and leaving the rain-snow line further north. Whatcom County looks to receive the biggest blow from this event, and Bellingham is currently under a winter storm warning until 6 a.m. Monday for 3-7 inches of new snow. That's quite a bit of the white stuff, and Western students will likely get a day off on Monday.

Valid 04:00 pm PST, Sun 23 Feb 2014 - 24hr Fcst:   http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~ovens/wxloop.cgi?mm5d3_wa_snow24+///3

As the latest UW WRF-GFS model shows, Seattle won't get a single snowflake. This was what I thought was going to happen... temperatures were right on the edge in the models, and the models were trending warmer. If you want to see lowland snow, you will have to head north.

After this event, our temperatures warm up to the low 50s, much too warm for snow in the near future. The newest WRF-GFS model run came with an interesting twist though and brought some cooler air down next weekend, bringing some snow to the area. Of course, this is so far in the future that it is hardly worth mentioning, but it does provide the consolation we need after this snow event, which had been modeled so steadfastly by the GFS, is failing to materialize in the Seattle area.

I went to Danielle's vigil service last night and her funeral today, and I wanted to express my deepest thank yous to my friends for being there with me. King Lau and Christine Palpallatoc, you both gave fantastic speeches. 

And I cannot thank Sarah Antoncich, my high school Japanese teacher, enough for, first of all, giving me a ride back to campus, but second and more importantly, being somebody I could feel comfortable talking to in this time of deep pain, even if only for a short time. You are a fantastic communicator, both inside and outside the classroom.

Danielle Maria Que Guloy: 12/8/92 - 2/14/14. I was going to type "you were amazing," but then I realized how much of you lives in other people, and it's obvious that your influence is still with us today. You are amazing, and I miss you, and I will never, ever forget you.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Late Season Sea-Level Snowfall?

Friday, February 21, 2014
1:19 p.m.

Heads or tails?

With the European model saying essentially no snow, the NAM (one American model) giving snow to the foothills and places to the far north, and the GFS (the premier American model) giving 3-8 inches of snow everywhere, you might as well flip a coin at this point to decide whether there will be snow or not. I've had to make some tough forecasts, but this may just about be the toughest one yet.

What's interesting, however, is that the GFS has been showing snow for our area since February 17, and it has been doing so on every single run. Some runs have had greater amounts than others, and the range has been different, but all of the runs have had sea-level snow extending southward to northern King County. The newest WRF-GFS from the UW this morning brings 3-4 inches of snow over all of Western Washington this weekend. I was EXTREMELY skeptical of these runs, as the temperatures did simply not look remotely cold enough for it to snow. But, it's Friday, and the GFS is still showing snow. Here's this morning's run.

Valid 04:00 am PST, Mon 24 Feb 2014 - 72hr Fcst:    http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~ovens/wxloop.cgi?mm5d2_x_wa_snow72+///3

You think that's crazy? Check out the run the morning before. Tacoma southward gets left out, but look at how much snow Bellingham gets! We're talking a foot in places! That would certainly make up for a humdrum winter.

Valid 04:00 pm PST, Mon 24 Feb 2014 - 108hr Fcst:    http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~ovens/wxloop.cgi?mm5d2_x_wa_snow72+///3

The ECMWF or Euro (European model), on the other hand, is much less optimistic. No snow anywhere remotely close to sea level in Western Washington save the furthest northern regions near the Canadian border. Again, the NAM is somewhat in the middle, with low snow levels providing some accumulation in the foothills and places up north but not quite down south or low enough to Seattle.

The bottom line is that this is one of, if not THE, hardest forecasts I've ever had the pleasure of making. If you asked me if it was going to snow over the weekend a couple days ago, I would have said no and that the GFS was just going bonkers. But we are quickly approaching the weekend, and the GFS is still showing snow; one pulse Saturday night and another, larger one Sunday night. If I had to make a preliminary forecast, I would guess that much of Western Washington would see a rain-snow mix or non-sticking snow, but places above 500 feet could certainly see accumulation. We'll get a better idea with each model run.

The point of this post is to highlight the ridiculously large uncertainty in the forecast. I'll get down to the details as the models converge on a solution (assuming they even converge on a solution at all). Forecasting snow in Seattle is hard enough, but when you have models that are varying wildly this close to the event with temperatures right on the fringe, the task becomes impossible. One thing's for sure, though. If it does end up snowing, the GFS is going to gain mad respect from the local weather buffs across the area. Maybe in the future, people won't have to resort to flipping coins. ;)

Do those dances!


Friday, February 21, 2014
12:14 p.m.

Rest in paradise, I love you.

Hey everybody. So, I know it's been a while since I've posted. I've been slacking... again. We do have a possibility of some snow over the weekend and I will write a blog on that right after I finish this one, but I think that this is more important.

I want to let you guys know about two tragedies that have recently affected both myself and many of my friends. Two people from Garfield High School in Seattle, the high school that I went to, died over a two-week period. The first was Lina Brown, a girl who was a year below me who, although I did not know that well, was loved dearly by many and will be missed.

The second was Danielle Guloy. While I wouldn't say I was ever "best friends" with her, we were pretty close. I've known her since 6th grade, and her death was a huge shock to me. I remember when we first met... she asked if she could play basketball with me and some other 6th grade boys. She was actually pretty darn good... I could see why she wasn't afraid to take us on (although, to be fair, I sucked and still do). She had a knack for lighting up a room with her presence... she didn't even need to smile. Of course, she smiled all the time and always seemed to be interested in what you had to say.

She LOVED to ask me about the weather, and told all her friends that I was the best weatherman in Seattle, especially when it came to snow. She actually has a comment at the top of my profile pictures on Facebook where I am standing in front of a KOMO 7-day forecast with a snarky sneer on my face, saying that 'I had realized my destiny to become the best weatherman known to mankind.' That comment made me laugh when I first saw it.

Now, I've been pondering whether I should delete it or not. Seeing it just feels so surreal and creepy, not to mention painful. But I've decided that I'll keep it there. My reasoning is that I wouldn't have deleted it in the first place if she was still alive. I was listening to my voicemail and I found a message from my grandma after she had passed, which was also painful and surreal, but I deleted it because I wouldn't have held onto it otherwise. That's the general strategy I've come to adopt; when a death occurs and there are the inevitable traces of life that the deceased has left here on Earth, I'll delete them or keep them based on what I'd do in any other situation. Doing that makes me feel like I'm second-guessing myself less, and I feel more secure as a result.

I'm really going to miss you Danielle. But your passion for loving people lives inside me now, and rest assured I'll pass it on to those I meet. I think you've changed more people than you realize, and ALWAYS for the better. Without exception. There's not many people I can say that for, but I can say that unequivocally for you. Some people say you have to go to Heaven to be an angel, but you were an angel from the day I met you, and your presence has cast a relaxed, personable, loving force for good that has permeated the world and won't be leaving anytime soon. I'll carry on your legacy, I promise.

But most importantly, I promise, now more than ever, to make it snow this weekend. :)


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Snow Updates for 2/8/2014

Saturday, February 8, 2014

This will be my page for snow updates for the night.

6:49 p.m.: currently lightly snowing in the U District with temperatures around freezing. Surprisingly, it actually is sticking on some cars and even some sections of black pavement. Some feature looks to have developed off of the system coming in and is spreading more snow northward than previously thought.


I'm definitely upping my predictions - I'm gonna go out on a limb and call for widespread amounts of an inch or 'snow' in the Seattle metropolitan area, with less north and more south. And that could be conservative. This is not something I expected, but I don't know if it is something the weather service expected.

8:46 p.m.: I've been eating dinner with my folks and others, so I apologize for the lack of frequent updates. My initial hunch that the south sound would get more forecast turned out to be correct, as Tacoma, which was under nothing and then under a snow advisory, is now under a WINTER STORM WARNING. Pretty impressive. I am using a different computer right now and I don't have screen-capture software on here, so I'll put up KOMO's radar, as the loop is actually composed of .jpg files that I can individually save and upload here.

As you can see, the snow has spread northward and is starting to come to an end on the coast. I'd say we have around an hour of steady snow left for Seattle, and then we'll turn to more scattered stuff.

Oh yeah. The dewpoint, which was near 20, is near 30, and the temperature, which was 42 this afternoon, is now 32. That's the power of evaporative cooling.

I'm upping my snow predictions for Seattle once again. Widespread amounts of 1-2.5 inches amongst the city, with lower amounts by the water and higher amounts on the hills are what I believe are in store for us for the remainder of the evening.


9:04 p.m.

UPDATE: SEATTLE HAS A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY UNTIL 4 A.M.!!! The NWS says the snow will taper off after midnight. NWS calls for 1-3 inches of snow.

Light Snow Tonight

Saturday, February 8, 2014
4:20 p.m.

Hey everybody, I hope your Saturday is going well. Mine is. I haven't done much (or anything for that matter), but that's doesn't necessarily constitute a bad day. It's good to have a chill day every once in a while.

The story of this week has been the snow 173 miles to our south. Earlier this week, models showed Seattle getting some snow, but that has not been the case. Instead, Portland, Salem, Vancouver, and many other places in NW Oregon and SW Washington have been getting absolutely hammered with the white stuff. My uncle, who lives in Portland, came up to Seattle this weekend, and reports that there is over a foot of snow on the ground where he lives. This gives me mixed emotions... I'm happy for him and the kids of Portland, because I know how much joy snow brings and how it truly lifts the spirit on even the darkest day, but I'm also extremely jealous of their situation.

But not all is lost, as we may get some snow tonight. The National Weather Service is predicting an inch or less in the Seattle metro area, and they are initially basing this on pressure gradients between certain stations to our north and south. For example, if there is much higher pressure over at Bellingham than Olympia, the winds will howl southward, but if the pressure is much lower over Bellingham, a strong wind headed to the north will dominate, as wind at the surface always flows from high pressure to low pressure (unless something REALLY screwy is going on and messes with the sum of force vectors that end up creating the wind vector). At 3 p.m., the pressure gradient between Seattle and Yakima was -9mb (meaning Yakima is higher) and the Olympia to Bellingham gradient was -4mb (Bellingham is higher). This corresponds to dry, northeasterly flow, which, while cooling our air, could decrease the amount of precipitation we will receive. Hence, the National Weather Service is only giving Seattle an inch of snow... tops. Places to the south, Olympia and south of there, are expected to pick up 1-3 inches of snow. Meanwhile, the NWS office in Portland is still giving the Portland metro area a Winter Storm Warning for 4-6 inches of additional snow. -_-

Looking at the radar, it looks like the Seattle area will see more than a measly inch. We've got a lot of greens headed up our way.

UW Radar - http://www.atmos.washington.edu/weather/radar.shtml

But here's the problem. Much of this precipitation is not reaching the ground. Why? The air mass is too dry! The moisture simply evaporates before it can hit the ground. As more precipitation evaporates, the air gets more moist, and it also gets cooler due to a process known as evaporative cooling, which I won't go into depth here. But if the precipitation rates are too light, all of the moisture will evaporate before reaching anybody, and we won't see any snow, even though it is indeed snowing up above.

I think that Seattle will be lucky to make it to the 1-inch mark. Hopefully we can get a few flakes for some nice scenery. The air is just too dry and I don't think the heavier moisture is going to get up here. Places like Olympia and Centralia, though, have a much better chance of picking up 1-3 inches or even more, and I think they will actually get more than the NWS is predicting.

I don't have access to atmospheric moisture content like the NWS guys do, so this is a hard prediction for me to make. Nevertheless, I'm fairly confident that we'll see some flakes and perhaps a little bit of accumulation here in Seattle, but nothing to take a second look at. I'll post updates all night long as warranted.



Saturday, February 1, 2014

No Harm In Trying

Saturday, February 1, 2014
8:31 p.m.

Hey folks! So I know it's been three weeks since I last posted, and a whole helluva lot of stuff has gone down in my life in those weeks. Thanks for not being too pushy and demanding blogs from me during this period by verbal or physical manipulation or assault. Justin Bieber's been in the news recently with his drag racing, egg-throwing, limousine-driver-assaulting mischief, and now he must go before the White House to address whether he will be deported back to the land of maple syrup or not. Richard Sherman, well, yeah. Weather-wise, we had a relatively large system come in this past week, with 1.20 inches of rain at Sea-Tac Tuesday the 28th and Wednesday the 29th and feet of snow in the mountains, including Snoqualmie Pass. Other than that, there weren't any major systems to speak of, so I don't think I missed too much.

My grandma had been in poor health for a while, but she passed away on Saturday, January 25, 2014, two days before by 21st birthday. She was a driving force in my life and such an inspiration for me to look on the bright side of things, and if I could even attempt to live with the zest the lived with, I would be taking the world by storm. She had COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or, as some know it, emphysema. As she got older, breathing got harder and harder for her to do. In the beginning of January, she had a urinary tract infection, and ended up staying in the hospital for 2-3 weeks. Because she was there sitting in a bed so long, her body became very weak, and by the time it was time for her to leave, her health had really gone downhill. I was in school at the time, but my mom, aunt, and other hospital members spent all of Tuesday, the 21st, trying to get her into her retirement home (the Belletini), and apparently it was extremely difficult, as she could certainly not walk and there was a ton of equipment to haul around.

Once she was in her apartment, the retirement home hooked us up with a hospice care company, and they were very helpful. I don't know how they do it - I couldn't have a job where I'm continuously working around people who are going to die in a couple days. But my grandma, being the spirit she was, was very grateful and continued to laugh, smile, and joke with the hospice employees right until the very end.

I had spent a lot of time with her over the summer and she had recently been over to our house for a Christmas dinner. I visited her in the hospital after her health had degraded significantly, and then the first three out of the four days she was in the Belletini (not counting the day where she moved in). I was exhausted mentally from seeing her in that state, so after going Wednesday-Friday, I passed on Saturday, where she, surrounded by those closest to her, peacefully stopped breathing and passed away. When she was alive and I was there, there were many times she was sleeping, and all I could do was go into the back room and cry. But as soon as she would wake up, I'd run over to see her, and rather than being sad, I'd be in the moment and be happy. When I smiled at her, she'd give me a wink back, and she kept telling me of how proud she was of the man I had become. When she was at the hospital with me, she thought she was gonna die the next day, and as I left to go home, she looked at me directly in the eye and said, "Don't ever let your epilepsy get you down." I don't think it ever really has to be honest, but now it's gonna be even harder, because whenever those negative thoughts come up, now comes up my grandma, rising triumphantly above them all.

Most of my grieving was actually done when she was still alive, but this past week has been hard. I just haven't been able to focus. I had an atmospheric science quiz on Friday, and I had all day to study for it, but all I could do was just sit in my bed, paralyzed by grief, and I subsequently failed the quiz. But after that, a new thought struck me. My grandma would have wanted me to get back up and succeed, and I'm not just intent on doing that, I'm PUMPED to do that. Because I'm agnostic, I don't know if she's up there in heaven cheering me on, but I think there's no harm in trying.

~ Charlie :)