Friday, November 27, 2015

Surface-Based Inversion Forms

An inversion occurs when temperature warms with height, which is the reverse (inversion) of the normal situation (temperature cooling with height).   A surface-based inversion has its bottom (base) at the ground, so temperatures immediately increase with height as you ascend.

One can secure a good view of the development of the inversion last night looking at the vertical temperature distribution over North Seattle (NOAA Sand Point) produced by the vertical temperature sounder there.  First, here are the vertical temperature profiles starting at 4 PM (yellow line) through 10 PM (black line) on Thursday.  We start with a normal situation (temperature decreasing with height) and rapidly move to a low level inversion.  Heights are in meters, so the inversion is only 300 meters deep (about 1000 ft)

We can then look at the changes during the next 6 hours (10 PM to 4 AM), below.  Inversion doesn't change much at low levels.

To get a strong surface inversion around here (and in most places), you want to start with clear skies....and as shown by the visible satellite picture below we had that last night.  Clear skies allow the surface to radiate infrared energy to space, cooling the surface.  Why doesn't the atmosphere above cool as much?   Because it is not as effective an emitter of infrared energy as the surface.

Why did we have clear skies?  Because we had high pressure over our region, or to be more exact, high pressure that was centered a bit east of the Cascade crest.   This positioning is important as we will see.  The map below shows the sea level pressure distribution at 10 PM Thursday night.  Notice there was a weak offshore pressure gradient:  lower offshore, higher inshore.  Very important.

High pressure is associated with sinking air and thus little middle and upper clouds.   Clouds stop the surface from radiating infrared energy to space (or at least slows it down).  Thus, clouds are bad for inversion formation.  

High pressure is generally associated with weak pressure differences and thus light winds. Winds cause turbulence that mixes the lower atmosphere:  bad for inversion formation.   Here are the winds over our area at 4 AM Friday.  Light winds, but with a weak offshore (towards the west) component.

Weak offshore winds are good for inversions over western Washington.  If the winds are very light, there is a tendency for fog to form and fog can weaken inversions by reducing the loss of infrared energy to space.  A weak offshore flow brings dry air to low levels and greatly reduces the chances of low-level fog,  Offshore flow also produces warming aloft (as air sinks down the western slopes Cascades), which is good for inversions as well.

The bottom line is that high pressure is the parent of cool season inversions around here.   Inversions that can bring frost to the surface and poor air quality.   Why bad air?  Because inversions are very stable structures:  they suppress mixing in the vertical with dense cold air below warm less dense air. So inversions can keep low-level pollution near the surface.  In fact, the National Weather Service has put out an urgent air stagnation advisory this AM:

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Snow Expands over the Northwest and Strong WInds

For those planning your Thanksgiving travels and recreation, the distribution of snow is of some interest.    Here are the snow depth maps for November 15, 20, and 25th.   A major increase in the extent and depth of snow over our region during those ten days.   Lots of snow in the north Cascades and a substantial extension of snow east of the Cascade crest.

The Methow Valley (Winthrop/Mazama) has enough snow for cross country skiing (see Sun Mountain Lodge Cam).

and snow has deepened as well at Paradise, Mt Rainier

and a number of downhill ski areas have opened in BC and on the higher volcanic peaks here in the NW.

On a more sobering note, El Nino has further strengthened (see NOAA Climate Prediction Center info below), with the sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies from climatology further increasing.

We often get decent snow in November during El Nino years, but by New Years,the warming effects of El Nino become more profound.  So get out there while you can!

Finally, the Fraser outflow winds really hit the San Juans and the west Sound areas hard yesterday, with gusts to 50-60 mph over North Kitsap, Lopez and Bainbridge Is. at exposed locations.  Here is the max winds over the past 24 h.  A huge contrast between locations east and west of the Sound.  Light winds in the eastern Seattle suburbs, but strong winds on the Sound and towards the Olympics. And the area north of Bellingham was savaged by gusty winds.

Enjoy Thanksgiving weekend.  No precipitation (guaranteed), sunny, with little clouds.  High temps during the day in the mid-40s over the lowlands.  A tonic against Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How to Save KPLU

There is a way to save KPLU that makes everyone a winner.

Give KPLU six months to raise enough money to secure its independence from Pacific Lutheran University (PLU).

Financially strapped PLU will get exactly the same deal being offered by KUOW and the University of Washington:  7 million dollars and 1 million dollars in underwriting.  PLU gets to take over the Neeb building on the PLU campus.

The community gets to keep a beloved radio station, with its extraordinary news operation and world-class jazz programming.

PLU gets the money it needs and will no longer will be viewed as insensitive to the public radio listeners.

The UW will be seen as beneficent and caring, and not  a rich raider ready to end a popular public radio station.

I have talked to a number of people and am convinced that KPLU could raise the needed funds in a few months from its large and appreciative audience. In support of this, I received dozens of emails since my KPLU blog came out, with a number of folks offering to contribute generously if they could save the station.

Raising 7-9 million dollars would not be such as heavy lift, considering that KPLU's audience is nearly 450,000 people.

And there is substantial precedence for this.  KUNC in northern Colorado faced a similar take over attempt, but was able to raise 2 million dollars in a few weeks to establish itself as an independent public radio station (the story is here).  KPLU has a hugely larger and richer audience.
Let PLU and the UW give KPLU six months to secure the necessary funds.  If KPLU fails to do so, they can make the original deal.  Donna Gibbs of PLU suggests that there have conversations for selling off KPLU for over a decade.   Well, it that is true, they can surely wait six more months.

And if KPLU can secure the funds and establish itself as an independent public radio station, then KUOW can use it large stash of cash and investments to increase its local programming, begin to cover the UW more seriously, improve its signal quality, and perhaps shorten its pledge drives.

Talk about win, win, win!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Forget the Lowland Snow or Frigid Temperatures West of the Cascade Crest

For those of you hoping for some snow near sea level, I am afraid I have some bad news...not this time.   I should note that a few media outlets are still hyping snow and cold (see below)

A weak, wimpy cold front is going through right now, one devoid of much moisture.  Some light rain has fallen over the lowlands with a dusting in the mountains.

This was never going to be a big event, but unfortunately the upper trough associated with cold front moved southward too quickly and with the wrong trajectory to give us snow.   Here is the upper level map for tomorrow at 8 AM...the trough is way past us.  Not good.

Snow over Washington and BC will be limited to the mountains and eastern WA/Oregon during next 24 hr (mainly next 12 h) and forecast totals are shown below. Max of a half foot in the mountains of Washington, but there are several inches over eastern Washington.  Lots of snow over the Oregon Cascades and northern CA...which is good.  Those poor devils need all the snow they can get.

Even the cold will disappoint west of the Cascade crest, with the real chill over eastern WA and Oregon.  Here is the low-level temperature and sea level pressure forecast for 1 AM Wednesday.  Blue is cold!  Frosty (tens to single digits) over eastern WA and REALLY cold air heading south over Montana.  Over western WA only Bellingham, the San Juans, the the sun-crazed folks in Sequim and Port Angeles will get chilled from Fraser outflow.

To illustrate the local Fraser Gap winds, here are the max gusts at 7PM Tuesday.
Gusts to 50 knots southwest of Bellingham.  The San Juans will get if you live there make sure you are ready (flashlights, gas for barbecues, etc.).  Some power will be lost.

As we get past Wednesday a HUGE ridge of high pressure will build over the eastern Pacific, with anchoring troughs on both sides.  We call this an Omega Block for obvious reasons...looks like the Greek letter omeg.

For Thursday through Saturday expect dry conditions, lots of mid-day sun, and frost in the morning.  Enjoy.  Clouds and rain come back next week.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Why KPLU Must be Saved and KUOW Reformed

There are two local public radio stations in the Seattle area with similar numbers of listeners.

One is lean, well-managed, financially healthy, and beloved:  KPLU, owned by Pacific Lutheran University (PLU).  Its programming is essentially a split between news/local programming and jazz.

The other station is fat, has greatly reduced its local programming, and seems to think it is a commercial radio station:  KUOW, owned by he University of Washington (UW).

The problem?

This week we learned of a secretly constructed deal in which KUOW, using surplus pledge money and loans from the UW, will purchase KPLU, destroying a valued local radio station and its independent news operation.

This blog will describe why this deal is not in the best interests of our region, how KUOW is poorly serving its listeners, and why it is not too late to stop this ill-conceived agreement.  It is a story of poorly informed university administrators, of hiding a controversial deal from the public, of a radio station gone corporate and inappropriately using its pledge funds (KUOW), and of a region where the depth of news coverage is rapidly declining.  My perspective on the sale is perhaps different than some, having been involved with both radio stations.

The Secret Deal

Without revealing the prior negotiations to the public, PLU has agreed to sell KPLU to the University of Washington's KUOW for 8 millions dollars: 7 million in cash and 1 million in underwriting announcements.   KPLU will no longer exist, with its news operation being terminated and the jazz part retained in a future KUOW jazz outlet.  KPLU staff will lose their jobs, although they will have the privilege of applying for jobs at KUOW (no guarantees).  Of the 7 million dollars, 4.5 million will come from KUOW's "reserve"--which means the cash they have piled up from pledge drives.  The rest will be derived from a loan from the UW.

Importantly, although there is an agreement between PLU and the UW, no legally binding document has been signed, which means this can be turned around if local public radio listeners act now (more later).

It is extraordinary that this deal, regarding a very popular local PUBLIC radio station, was done in complete secrecy, and even more amazing that a state university felt the need for such a clandestine approach.  Clearly, both sides were worried about the firestorm that would occur if the truth came out before the deal was struck.   And no attempt was made to allow KPLU to raise money to save itself, which could well have been done.

The Decline of Regional News Coverage

But before we analyze the effects of this deal, it is important to understand some important context:  the weakening of regional news and programming in western Washington, and why this deal will make it worse.

One fact is clear:  the depth of media coverage of local (Northwest) issues has been radically reduced over the past ten years.

(1) The Seattle PI, once a print outlet with a very large news staff, has been reduced to an online outlet with a handful of news folks (but fortunately including the redoubtable Joel Connelly).   Its online pages are full of unfortunate innovations such as "sponsored news", celebrity gossip, and pictures of nubile young women in various stages of disrobing (see examples of the first two below, the third is too risque for this blog).

 Let us say the PI is a shadow of  what it used to be.

(2)  Virtually all of the local commercial TV stations have greatly reduced their local news staff and have lessened staff pay at the same time.  Far less depth in covering major local issues.  Lots of coverage of fires and bad weather.  I do like the weather coverage.

(3)  KUOW radically cut its local programming, down to essentially one hour a day.  It does maintain some local staff that creates short segments that are interspersed in All Things Considered and Morning Edition.  

(4)  KCTS TV (Seattle's Public TV) fired virtually all of its local production staff, with its airtime now filled with Masterpiece Theater reruns and infomercials for investment advice and quack health programs.

(5)  The Seattle Times greatly reduced its news staff (by about 1/3) during its financial crisis back in 2008/2009.  We are talking about the loss of roughly 30-50 people in the newsroom.

(6)  There is some local news coverage from local weekly print and online outlets, such as the Weekly, the Stranger, and Crosscut.  Although they contribute significant stories at times, their staffs are small, generally quite young, and lack long-term experience with the region.  They are not a replacement for the losses noted above.

So here we are living in one of the most vibrant and important metropolitan areas in the country, if not the world.  The home of Microsoft, Amazon, the UW, Boeing, Costco, and so much more.  And local news coverage and local programming programming has declined precipitously over the past decade.

Amazingly, in this environment, leaders at Pacific Lutheran University and the University of Washington have decided to kill the valued, substantial, and award-winning news operation of KPLU.   

Want to read about KPLU's news awards?  check this out.

To show you how poorly PLU leaders understand the impact of their actions, PLU spokeswoman Donna Gibbs noted that the loss of KPLU news is not significant since the Seattle-PI is now a "vibrant online destination." Perhaps she thinks celeb interviews and half-undressed young woman is the kind of "vibrant" material that can replace the experienced journalists she is firing.  PLU management seem unaware of the great contributions KPLU journalists have made in our area.

Public  Reaction

In a single phrase: highly negative.   There have been about 6-10 major news stories on the sale.  Virtually all of the stories are critical.  Virtually all the online comments associated with these articles  are critical of the sale.  Go to the facebook pages of BOTH KPLU and KUOW: essentially all the comments are highly negative.

KPLU listeners feel they have been stabbed in the back.   KUOW listeners are stunned that KUOW has been banking their pledges while pleading poverty.  Faculty at the UW, as noted on the AAUP (American Association of University Professors) listserv, were disappointed that the UW administration did not reveal this was in the works.

Why is Pacific Lutheran University Selling KPLU?

The vision statement of PLU is:
As a university of the first rank, Pacific Lutheran University seeks to maximize the achievement of its mission and become an internationally renowned model of the New American University, purposefully integrating the liberal arts, professional studies, and civic engagement.

You noticed the civic engagement part? In few ways was PLU better engaging the community then through KPLU. So WHY are they selling?

Before the sale, this is what PLU President was saying (see Joel Connelly's article in the PI for more)

“Year-round, KPLU demonstrates its commitment to providing compelling, informative and entertaining content, mentoring students, strengthening its connection to the community, and furthering the mission of KPLU.  I’m excited to see what’s ins tore between KPLU and the rest of PLU in 2015.”

“Especially noteworthy was KPLU News’ extensive coverage of events such as the Skagit River bridge collapse, the Oso mudslide, the Marysville-Pilchuck High School shooting and the 2014 election. KPLU produced special series on salmon recovery and students learning about careers from people experienced in their fields.In addition to on-air, KPLU utilized digital platforms to tell these stories.
“Speaking of students, KPLU utilizes the talents of PLU students year-round. In 2014, PLU Medialab conducted a research project to help inform KPLU’s marketing efforts, and this year KPLU will debut a news internship program for students.”

And why is he changing his tune now?

PLU claims to be in good financial shape but was it actually desperate for KUOW cash?  The PLU President claimed hat they had to sell now because the "value" of KPLU was declining since radio was getting less popular.  A strange argument for a robust station that was serving the needs of roughly 300,000 listeners a week.  One that easily was able to support itself with short pledge drives.  Was is because PLU would gain a relatively new building, built for KPLU with substantial contributions from the community?   Or the fact that pledges from all sustaining KPLU members WILL NOW GO TO PLU instead.  This seems unethical at best.

Disfunction at KUOW

One might be willing to consider this sale if KUOW had a good track record in providing good local coverage or was dedicated to informing the region about important issues.  If it had a history of honesty and interest in listener needs.  Unfortunately, it does not.  One would also feel better about the deal if KUOW was committed to greatly increasing its local news and regional programming and in the process hiring most of the KPLU news staff.  But it is clear that they have no such intention.

Consider what has been happening at KUOW the past few years.

(1) KUOW has reduced local programming from 5 hours to one hour (including ending Steve Scher's popular morning show, Weekday).

(2) KUOW has eliminated long-form programming where issues could be dealt with in depth.  Program director Jeff Hansen believes that folks only will listen to short segments (no longer than 5 minutes), which is not a little insulting to the highly educated KUOW audience.  He told me this in person and is widely quoted expressing this opinion.

(3) KUOW has filled its schedule with repetitious syndicated material (like The Takeaway)

(4) KUOW has extended the pledge break periods to several weeks, in contrast to KPLU that keeps them short (one week or less).

(5)  KUOW has gone corporate, with often multiple advertisements per show.

 "This program is sponsored by John's Auto Repair, which specializes in Mercedes, BMW, and Audi vehicles, and which is having a special this month for tune ups.  Get more information at or call 206 718-3829".

Or they use commercial approaches like:  the next program can only be found on KUOW.    And they constantly advertise upcoming segments to keep folks tuned in.

KUOW claims to be non-commercial radio. LOL.

(6)  KUOW pleads poverty while banking a surplus of 1-2 million dollars per year.  Check out their annual statement (buried on their web page).  Here are some of the numbers I found.  The 2014 surplus was 1.15 million dollars

At the very least, they are being deceptive with their listeners.  And using this secret stash of funds to buy out the competition is SURELY not why KUOW contributors were given their hard-earned cash. Imagine if this money was used instead to improve and expand KUOW's local news coverage?  Or improve the salaries of underpaid KUOW staff?

(7)  KUOW, the radio station of the University of Washington, has nearly NO UW content.  Where are rebroadcasts of the wonderful public lectures, interviews with top UW faculty, and tapping of the intellectual powerhouse next store?  You won't find it at KUOW, the UW's radio station.

Listeners are very unhappy with the changes at KUOW, but KUOW management simply doesn't care.  If you want to see proof of that, explore the comments on the KUOW facebook page.  Here are a few examples.  There are dozens and dozens more like these.

I used to listen to npr nonstop many years, but the last year or two has been really lacking in programming. It sounds like all of your content is geared towards facebook soundbites and less discussion based programs. Because of this, I have not switched my radio on in at least a year. You guys can fix this. Bring back the call ins, create more shows and stop repeating everything every few hours. There are a ton of podcasts in the PNW, start looking there.

I love KUOW, I really do. Have been almost a daily listener for over a decade. even when I lived in another state for 3 years. But the obliteration of the weekday schedule has been devastating. Here & Now and The Takeaway are indistinguishable, and so bland. I have tried to listen to them for a year now i think, and they just get worse. So, so bland & just not a substitute for what KUOW used to do in terms of local original programming. I still can't picture a KUOW listener thinking "man I really wish they would get rid of all this in-depth conversation & investigation & swap in 3 or 4 hours of cutesy little tidbits of random stuff." I think that all of your listeners would rejoice if you cancelled the 2 shows I mention above and bring back local, actual conversations a la Weekday & The Conversation. The only thing still worth listening to is the only hour left of an actual hour of conversation- the Week In Review.

Two years ago I was kicked off of KUOW for defending the UW's admission policy on air during the weather segment (startling, but true).  There were massive numbers of calls in protest and 4,000 folks signed a petition for me to return.  KUOW management did not care.  The same kind attitude pervades that station today.

Having been at KPLU for a few years, I was struck by the different atmosphere at that station.  Humble, interested in responding to listener comments, careful with money,  and very nice people.  In contrast, KUOW management thinks they know better and really don't care about listeners preferences and interests.

The funny thing is the KUOW is doing exactly the WRONG THING to have a future.  They have filled their airtime with syndicated shows and NPR feeds, but such material can be gotten over the web.  Folks don't need KUOW to listen to All Things Considered anymore and soon they will realize this and take control of their own content.  KUOW will fail.  

The only thing that will attract folks to KUOW will be local content, but that is exactly what they have gotten rid of.  Poor planning at best.

KPLU purchase or not, KUOW needs serious reforming.  It is time for UW management include VP Norm Arkans and President Ana Mari Cauce to deal with their errant radio station.

A Bad Deal for Local Public Radio Listeners

The proposed deal will destroy a very popular local radio station.  It will end a desperately needed local news organization.  It will give KUOW a public radio monopoly in Seattle, a monopoly it probably will abuse, if its previous track record holds.

The deal needs to be stopped.  If PLU wants to get out of the public radio business, give KPLU a chance to find another buyer, such as self-financing. Selling KPLU to KUOW is like putting a lamb in the care of a can imagine how that will turn out.

And imagine if KUOW used its big surplus to improve and expand local programming instead of eliminating other stations that are doing much more with less.

What Can Be Done

This secret deal can be undone if public radio listeners, PLU alumni, UW alumni, and other interested parties act now.

First, the agreement has to be approved by the FCC, which has to certify that the sale does not negatively influence the public interest (it clearly does).   Here is the FCC contact info:

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, DC 20554
Phone: 1-888-225-5322
TTY: 1-888-835-5322
Videophone: 1-844-432-2275
Fax: 1-866-418-0232

To Contact the Commissioners via E-mail

Chairman Tom Wheeler:
Commissioner Mignon Clyburn:
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel:
Commissioner Ajit Pai:
Commissioner Michael O’Rielly: Mike.O'

Second, email Donna Gibbs (PLU Vice President for Communication and Marketing) or PLU President Thomas Krise. Their emails:

Donna Gibbs:

Tomas Krise:

Third, email UW Communications Vice President Norm Arkans, KUOW head
Caryn Mathes, and the Chair of UW Board of Regents

Norm Arkans:


Caryn Mathes does not reveal her email ( expected at KUOW!). So use the programming email:

Fourth . Leave comments on the KUOW and KPLU facebook pages opposing this sale.

Fifth.  Let KUOW know that if the sale goes through, you will stop your donations to that radio station.  If they have piles of cash for buying out the opposition, they clearly don't need your pledge funds for operations.

Tomorrow (Monday, November 23), there will be a public meeting organized by KPLU at 2 PM at the Pike Room at the downtown Westin Hotel.  Make your feelings know.

KUOW's management has so much surplus pledge fund cash 
they can remove their competition by a buy out

Cold Air, Snow in the Mountains, and Strong Winds in and Downstream of Mountain Gaps But Little Lowland Snow

We have an interesting few days ahead of us--weatherwise at least.

This morning (Sunday) many locations got into the 20s F west of the Cascades and the teens east of the crest.

Over the eastern side of the Columbia Gorge winds gusted to 50-80 mph in exposed locations like Crowne Point (see wind plots)
Crown Point Wind

Max gusts around Portland the past 24 h

As you can see from the surface pressure map at 8AM (pressures are solid lines, colors are temperature at low levels), there was a very large pressure difference in the Gorge...driving winds towards the west.  On a lesser scale, a similar phenomena was occurring in Snoqualmie and Stevens passes, with winds gusting to 30-40 mph around North Bend, WA.

The latest model runs show a cold front moving across our region tomorrow afternoon.   A front with only limited moisture.  Temperatures will be too warm for snow over the lowlands on Monday, but the higher terrain will get several inches to roughly a half foot (see forecast of total 24h snow ending 4 AM on Tuesday).   Maybe some light snow over parts of Whatcom County.

On Tuesday, much colder air will be moving in, but unfortunately most of the precipitation will be over for western WA, WITH SOME EXCEPTIONS!   Strong flow from the northeast will extends out of the Fraser River valley and push against the northern Olympic Mountains, producing moderate snow (up to a foot) at Hurricane Ridge and lesser amounts extended to sea level around Port Angeles (see map of the snow during the next 24 h below, ending 4 AM Wednesday). Some snow showers are quite possible over northwest  and southwest Washington.

But there is something else.  As the low system moves by, there will be upslope flow over the eastern slopes of the Cascades, producing moderate snow along those slopes including Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Winthrop, and the Okanogan areas.  The Cascade crest will get a few inches more.   Good for Mission Ridge and Stevens Pass.

But if you are the Mayor of Seattle you can probably rest easy--the Metro area should get very little snow.

And now time for caveats.   There will be cold air around on Tuesday.  If our models were off by a few hundred miles regarding the position of the incoming upper level trough and associated surface low, a few inches of snow in Seattle is possible.  But at this point it is unlikely.

And for those in NW Washington, the winds and wind chills on Tuesday and Wednesday will be FIERCE!.  Consider the forecast gusts for 7 PM Tuesday--up to 60 knots over the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Bellingham will got 30-50 mph gusts.

Cold, sunny conditions will spread over our region from Wednesday to Saturday. Perfect for a walk or run before you Thanksgiving meal.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Modified Arctic Air and Low Elevation Snow Later on Monday and Tuesday

There is a saying about waiting until you see the whites of their eyes before firing.... and a similar thing is true about forecasting cold and snow over the Northwest lowlands.    The situation is so rare, the atmospheric configuration needed is so difficult to achieve, and the uncertainties in getting the ingredients together so uncertain, that a wise forecaster waits until the event is within 3-4 days before alarming the public.

"Don't forecast Puget Sound snow until less than four days out or 
you see the white of the flakes"

Well, our meteorological foe is now cresting the hill and running towards us, so I need to make a call.  Here it is.

During the weekend we will have a weak ridge of high pressure over us, bringing cool, sunny conditions:  perfect for outdoor activities or catching up in your yard.
Or hit the slopes at Mt. Baker, Crystal, or Mount Hood Meadows.

But by Monday morning at 4 AM, a sharp upper level trough will approach us (see upper level map at that time  at 500 hPa (about 18,000 ft), below), a trough that will bring upward motion, clouds, and precipitation.  A trough that will drive cool air southward out of Canada.

The surface map (sea level isobars, surface winds, and temperatures near the surface)  at 4 AM on Monday shows the vanguard of the cold air, moved along by northerly flow.  Blue is cold air, white is intermediate air and yellows and greens are warmer.

Twenty four hours (4 AM Tuesday) later the change is stark and sobering.  Cold, modified arctic air has now pushed over our region, although the primo arctic cold is still over the interior of BC...the purple color.  Can you see the packing of the solid lines (isobars) over British Columbia?  That is that famous ARCTIC FRONT.

 The upper trough at this time has amplified and extended down over our region (see map), a pattern quite close to the canonical lowland snow configuration.  Perhaps not quite deep and west enough.  HUGE ridge to the west in the eastern Pacific.  When I see this pattern I worry about snow in Seattle.

The passage of the cold front and associated upper level trough brings precipitation to our is the 24 totals ending 4 AM Tuesday. Light and moderate amounts over the region, particularly over Oregon and the north Cascades and BC interior.

But you want to know...what about snow?  Here is the model snow forecast for the same 24 h.  Lots of snow over the Cascades.  Plenty over British Columbia.   And if you look closely, some very light snow extends over the Puget Sound and NW Washington lowlands.  Not a lot....but something.  The problem is temperature....the air coming off the mild ocean has been warmed at low levels.  No snow on the coast for that reason.

During the next 24 h (through Wednesday at 4 AM) even colder air pushes southward, with precipitation ending from the north (see map at 4 AM Wednesday).   Wow...the coldest air we have seen for a long time--even gets to California.  THIS IS NOT AN EL NINO PATTERN!  The trouble for snow lovers is that by the time the really cold air is in place, precipitation is ending.   The classic lowland snow situation.

Snow during that next 24 will far over southern Oregon and northern CA as well as Montana.
So at this point, cold air (lows around western Washington into the low 20s) is pretty certain, as is mountain snow.  A lot of uncertainty with lowland snow, but it looks light at this time.  But keep tuned ... if the trough changes position by only a few hundred miles, you could have a snowy Turkey season.

All local mayors, and particularly Seattle's, should begin preparations for potential snow.   You know what happened to Ex-Mayor Greg Nickels...

I will update the snow situation on Sunday or Monday after I talk about attempts to kill the loved KPLU NPR station by UW and PLU administrators.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

How can we be in a drought if there is flooding?

*See update at the end!

The current official US Government Drought Monitor graphic for Washington State is shown below.  According to our government, the entire state is in at least moderate drought, with NW Washington and eastern Washington being in severe or extreme drought.

Many state and local entities using the US Drought Monitor, such as Washington State and the Dept of Ecology Drought Page, which features the Drought Monitor information at the top of their webpage! (see below)

As I will demonstrate, the NOAA Drought Monitor information is unscientific and subjective.  More of a political and motivational tool than reliable guidance to make key decisions.

First, it is ridiculous to claim that our entire state is in moderate or more severe drought.  There are stronger words I could have used, but this is is a family friendly blog.

As I write this blog, many of our local rivers are flooding with nearly all Washington rivers running above normal.    For example, here is the latest USGS streamflow map.  Nearly the entire state has streamflows that are well above normal (green, blue, and black), with some of the largest flows over the eastern slopes of the Cascades.

Only a handful of small, unimportant rivers in eastern WA are below normal.  The latest NW River Forecast Center summaries show many rivers in serious flood stage over our state from the Yakima River in eastern Washington, to the Snoqualmie, to the Chehalis, and more.   Doesn't look like drought there.

Well, what about precipitation?   Here is the precipitation difference from normal for the 30 days ending on Tuesday.  Most of the state is above normal (greens and blues), including all of western Washington, the Cascades, including the eastern slopes, and most of far eastern Washington.  And where it is low (Columbia Basin), it is only a bit below normal.  And those folks generally get their water from the Columbia River, which is at normal levels.

How about the official crop moisture index?  Way above normal in western WA and normal in the east.
I know what you are thinking, what about snowpack?  Surely, that is well below normal!  Well, we don't hide anything on this are the latest % of normal for the date of snow water content for the U.S. Government SNOTEL sites.  In general, we are close to normal, with sites ranging from 42 to 205%.   And many of our ski areas will be opening early for Thanksgiving (e.g., Baker, Whistler).

But what about our reservoirs?  Surely, they are way below normal due to the drought!  The truth is that many of our reservoirs are well above normal from recent rains.  Take Seattle.  Here is the total storage of the Tolt and Chester Morse reservoirs.  Levels have jumped to WAY ABOVE normal and are about 80% full.  No problems with having enough water for next summer at this rate.
But what about the reservoirs on the eastern slopes that feed the critical Yakima River?  How about Lake Keechulus near Snoqualmie Pass? (see below).  Now well above normal (red asterisks).  And rising.  We are on track to completely fill the Yakima reservoirs earlier than normal.

I could show you more, but you get the point.  It is silly to suggest that we are in a drought.  We are not.   And typical precipitation during even strong El Nino years is generally at or slightly below normal, so there is no reason to expect a drought ahead.

Now, I know what you are wondering.  If it is evident that there is no drought, why is the Drought Monitor saying we are NOW in a serious drought?

The Drought-affected Snoqualmie Valley

Now we get to the embarrassing part of the blog.   The Drought Monitor  is produced through a partnership between the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

And now the key point:  it is a SUBJECTIVE, QUALITATIVE BLEND of  all kinds of information, including subjective appraisals of impacts.  It is not a strictly objective index based on precipitation, soil moisture, and the like.  And the folks that make this index tend to seriously exaggerate drought, as should be obvious to anyone who read the early part of my blog.  I will let you speculate why they are producing an unreliable product.

The Drought Monitor is unscientific, subjective and is doing the nation and our region a disservice by providing unreliable information that will lead authorities and governments to make the wrong decisions.   It is also being used by some to hype the current impacts of climate change produced by anthropogenic greenhouse gases.

Our society needs to plan and make adaptations for upcoming climate change.   Products like the Drought Monitor will hinder efforts to do so in a rational, robust fashion.  It should be ended and replaced by a rational, completely objective product.

Update on Thursday

Today an updated Drought Monitor Graphic was released (see below, with the previous week's version below that for each reference).  They have moved western Washington from moderate drought to abnormally dry, but left the Cascades and eastern Washington the same. 

THIS IS RIDICULOUS!  There is absolutely no objective measure showing that western Washington is abnormally dry.  And their changes do not recognize the HUGE amount of moisture that has fallen on the Cascades--on both sides.  I found it hard to understand how NOAA and other groups can allow such a subjective and obviously wrong measure to become the NATION'S MAIN DROUGHT INDEX.   And let me assure you, I can point out equally problematic drought appraisals in other parts of the country.

The total reservoir storage for the Yakima Basin is now at normal:


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