Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Relatively Dry Weather Ahead

We have been through a very wet period during the last month, with lots of precipitation in the lowlands and heavy snow in the mountains, but it looks like a break is coming up that should allows us to dry off a bit, and yes, see a glimpse of the sun.

Seattle has had around 48.5 inches of rain so far this year, about 12 inches about normal.  To get a view of how we got so wet, here is a plot of the normal cumulative rain (blue) versus what has actually hit the airport (red).  Two wet periods stand out:  late winter/early spring and this fall (after roughly 20 October).  And, of course there was our dry spell during the late summer/early fall.
Do we have a chance of any records?   The greatest annual rainfall at Sea-Tac was 55.14 inches in 1950.  There is little chance we can reach that in a few days.  Only three years (including 1950) got above fifty inches...there is a good chance we will get close to that level.  In any case, we will "enjoy" living in one of the top 10 wettest years since 1948.  

But the pattern is a changing....  the latest NWS Climate Prediction Center 6-10 day forecasts show drier than normal conditions over the Pacific Northwest.   The origin?   Persistent ridging (high pressure) over the region with a few glancing blows, mainly to our north.

 The European Center Model has very little precipitation over the lowlands during the next week, and even the U.S. GFS model takes most of it to the north and south of us.  This weekend looks fine, with only a few showers around.  No serious weather.

The snowpack is not only bountiful, but it is unusually good condition, since we have not had many warm rain periods to turn it into Cascade concrete.   Very few wet/warm atmospheric rivers this year. As shown below, much of the region has 150% or more of normal snow water equivalent (amount of water in the snow).

So the skiing is very good.

Talking about skiing, today was the last mountain/avalanche forecast of a mainstay of the local mountain weather community, Mark Moore.  Mark has been the leader of the NW Weather and Avalanche Center for years, and his work has not only immeasurably strengthened this crucial local resource, but has undoubtedly saved many lives.  We owe him a real debt and wish him the best.  By the way, the NW Avalanche Center deserves your support, particularly if you depend on their mountain weather and avalanche forecasts.  The latest Seattle Times/NY Times articles on the Tunnel Creek avalanche deaths shows how important the NWAC is and why you should listen to their warnings!

Mark Moore, Director of the NWAC

Monday, December 24, 2012

Strong Foothills Winds and Localized Snow

It's all about mountain slopes.   

So much of our interesting weather is associated with air moving up and down our substantial terrain and tomorrow will be a stellar example.  Huge weather contrasts will occur tomorrow over the lowlands.  In some locations, wind will gust to 60-80 mph--as strong as Hurricane Sandy--while 20-30 miles away you will barely feel a breeze.   In some lowland locations there will be not a single flake, while 20-30 miles away nearly a foot could snarl traffic.
December 25, 2012 Weather
 We are lucky to live in such a place.  Imagine being in IOWA or KANSAS where you could drive for hours and barely notice a chance in the weather.  If you live in Seattle, you can CHOOSE whether you want to experience boring rain, hurricane force winds, or a major snowstorm...all within an hour's drive or ferry ride! 

Boring Weather Comes With No Terrain
 Christmas Storm 2012 will strike tomorrow.  I know the TV stations will have something better:  The Santa Storm, Holiday Express, etc.  And the Weather Channel will give it some scary name:  Storm Boris or something.  At 10 AM tomorrow a low center will be parked off our coast, precipitation will be moving in over the region, and a very large pressure difference will develop over the Cascades.

With strong southeasterly winds over the Cascade crest and a big east-west pressure difference over the mountains, we have a very good set up for very strong easterly  downslope winds on the western Cascade slopes and adjacent lowlands of western Washington.  Enumclaw, Black Diamond, North Bend and many eastside communities will get hit hard, with wind gusts reaching 50-70 mph in a few places.  Trees will fall.  Power will fail.  And strong winds will occur in the Strait and over the offshore waters.  Forget your sailing lessons unless you want to end up in the mid-Pacific. 

Here are the predicted maximum gusts (in knots) at 1 PM tomorrow from the super-high resolution WRF 1.3km resolution model.  Wow.  Gusts reaching 60 knots over parts of the Strait and offshore of the central WA coast.  45 knot  (52 mph) gusts along the western Cascade foothills at that time (with some higher values).

What about snow?   The National Weather Service and I are generally on the same page (SE of the Olympics is the focus), but they are going for the possibility of a few inches over Seattle and vicinity.

Looking at the latest runs, I believe it will be too warm for snow in Seattle and that the powerful easterlies will dry things out enough to lessen the snow chances near sea level around the Seattle Metro area.  Here is the latest WRF model forecast.  First, the 24h ending 4 PM Christmas Day. Same story as yesterday: Kitsap and Mason counties get the brunt of the lowland snow. 

The next 24-h (ending 4 PM on Wednesday).  Eastern Washington's turn!

But although I think the above is the most probably scenario, the snow level could descend toward the high hills of the lowlands if the precipitation is heavier and the easterly flow weakens more than forecast.  This is a classic Seattle snow forecasting problem:  temperatures are marginal and everything depends on precipitation rate and the temperature/humidity structure of the air above us.  By the end of the afternoon it will be too warm for snow that is clear.  But I have learned not to be too confident about Seattle snow and freezing rain forecasts.

Roads are relatively warm right now.  Here is the latest air and road (boxes) temperatures from Seattle SNOWWATCH.  Elevated and non-elevated roadways are in the 40s.  That is good place to start.  If clouds come in soon enough tonight, temperatures will not fall too much and even if few flakes hit the road, they will melt quickly.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Snow in the Lowlands on Christmas Day?

The National Weather Service has special weather statement out right now about the potential for snow over the western Washington lowlands and some of the TV stations have already started the drumbeat.  As I will describe below, MOST of you will not see any snow accumulations, but some places (like western Kitsap County and Mason County, southwest WA) might get substantial accumulations.  And lets not forget eastern Washington and the mountains, both of which should enjoy snow on Christmas Day.

Snow plow near Silverdale.  Courtesy of Kitsap Sun.
We are close enough to the event now that I have some confidence in the general picture of what will happen...but snow forecasts are always hard ones.   Let me explain the meteorological situation and why Kitsap/Mason county are often snowy when the rest of the lowlands are wet.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the current temperatures are marginal for lowland snow.  We really don't have very cold air over us, with the snow level at 1500-2000 ft. The snow level will fall a bit during the next day (by about 500 ft).  Plenty cold for snow in the mountains and eastern Washington, but not for the west side.

After a relatively dry Monday, a fairly strong weather system will approach us.  As illustrated by the forecast map at the surface for 7 AM on December 25th, a warm front will approach that morning. The solid lines are pressure, the colors are temperature (white, blue and purple are colder), and surface wind barbs are shown as well (click on image to blow it up).  You will notice modestly cooler air over western Washington.  The front will be accompanied by precipitation and moderate to strong southeasterly flow.

Strong southeasterly flow will be forced to rise up over the Olympic Mountains--in fact the lift starts tens of kilometers upwind of the Olympics.   Thus, there will be heavier precipitation over Mason and Kitsap counties. 

Here are the winds, temperatures, and pressures at roughly 5000 ft at 7AM on Tuesday.  You can see the strong southeasterly flow and the cooling occurring over and immediately upstream of the Olympics.  The central and eastern Puget Sound are a bit in the rainshadow of the Cascades (the southeasterly flow sinks on the western slopes of the Cascades and sinking air kills precipitation).

 In marginal situations, places with less precipitation (like Seattle in this case) will be mainly rain (perhaps a few wet snow flakes mixed in on the hills), but areas with heavier precipitation rapidly turn to snow as melting of snow falling from aloft progressively cools the air air, pushing the snow level down to the surface.  (heavier winter precipitation around here virtually always starts as snow aloft).

  Let me show you the details!  We can take the model forecasts and plot the wind, dew point (blue line), and temperature (red line) with height.   Here is such a plot at Shelton, WA (Mason County, upstream of the Olympics) at 7 AM on the 25th. The x axis is temperature and the y axis is height in pressure (850 is about 5000 ft).  You can see the southeasterly winds at low levels and the temperature is almost exactly 0C (32F) in the lower atmosphere.   Why 0C?  Because snow is melting in that entire layer!   And the air is saturated (red and blue lines are on top of each other).  A Kitsap classic.

But what about Seattle?  Here is the same type of plot at the same time. The air is  saturated (temperature and red lines are not on top of each other) and the air temperature is above freezing for a few thousand feet above the surface.  Rain and disappointed kids.

   Lets look st the 24-h snow maps for periods ending 4 PM on Tuesday and Wednesday.  You can see the Kitsap and Mason county snows, and in fact it extend to Grays Harbor County as well.  Portions of SW Washington may see some light snow, as the higher suburbs east of Seattle (e.g., Somerset neighborhood in Bellevue, Issaquah Highlands).

 The next day, with warmer air, the snow is over over the west, but large parts of easterly Washington, including around Spokane and Wenatchee should be whitened up.

Here is the predicted snow for the next 72 hr.  The Cascades will get plenty, particularly over the southern sections (e.g., Crystal, Mt. Hood!). 

There are some uncertainties with this forecast (e.g., heavier precipitation more snow) and it would not shock me if Portland received a significant dusting.  But I would be surprised if the general picture shown above is not correct.  Temperatures are warming during the day, so if Seattle had a little wet snow during the initial stages of the event, it would turn to rain in a few hours.

Sobering fact:  less than 10% of Christmas days are white in Seattle...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

PSY's makes YouTube history with 'Gangnam Style' | First video to hit 1 Billion Views!!!

PSY's "Gangnam Style" has just become the first video in the history of YouTube and the Internet to surpass 1 BILLION VIEWS!

On Dec. 21, 2013, Gangnam Style reached the milestone just 27 days after surpassing Justin Bieber's "Baby" as the most-watched video on YouTube. 

Records show that the performance of Gangnam Style has truly been phenomenal as  days after breaking the 803 million YouTube view record, "Gangnam Style" has sustained over 6.5 million views PER DAY - that's 76.4 view per second. Holy crap!

Congratulations Psy! Wish we all could achieve something as outrageously amazing!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Why ARGO might win

From my Guardian column:—
'... A modernist condo in Beverly Hills. Early evening. A sixtysomething movie producer, let’s call him Sammie, stares at the pile of unwatched dvds next to his TV while his wife loads the dish-washer in the kitchen. Next to the dvds, his Oscar nomination ballot. He’s left it to the last minute just like he always does. 
He tries Lincoln first. Spielberg. A master.  Daniel Day-Lewis. Also a master. But Jesus. All this yakking in dark, smoke-filled rooms.  Could someone please open a window? They didn't have air conditioners back then? Guess not. 
When Sammie wakes up Tommy Lee Jones is in bed with some black woman. Whodjahowthathappen?  He resolves to vote for Daniel Day Lewis while fetching a cigar from his secret stash behind his Emmy. He knows he shouldn’t but still. It’s the film’s fault. All that smoke. 
He tries Zero Dark Thirty, watches 20 minutes of some Arab getting tortured, takes it out again. Holy crap. No way. 
“Are you smoking a cigar?” comes his wife’s voice from the kitchen. 
“No honey.” 
“If I come in there and find you smoking again….” 
Muttering under his breath, he wraps his bathrobe around him, collects his ashtray, rolls open the windows and steps out onto the pool. His wife has left all her magazines on the table. On the cover of all of them is Ben Affleck making goo-goo eyes at Jennifer Garner: “Why They Click: Ten Tips to a Successful Hollywood Marriage.” 
He knows it’s bullshit, but he tears up anyway. Kid took his knocks but he picked himself up, came back and turned out to be quite a director. Just like they used to make. Thrills. Laughs. That Alan Arkin, he was funny, what was it he said? Argofuckyourself.  
His mind returns to the others: Lincoln sequestered in his dark rooms. The hunt for Bin Laden. 
Tap, tap from the window. His wife. Sammie makes his puppy dog face. She swats him out of sight, returns to the kitchen. 

Argofuckyourself.  That’s what it’s all about. The secret of life right there. 
He takes a big long puff. 
Lincoln. Bin Laden. Lincoln. Bin Laden. 

He’s going with the kid.'
It certainly makes sense of the rest of the ballot: Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor and Editing to Argo, Actor and Adapted screenplay to Lincoln (and once you do that, doesn't it seem like you've scooped the best out of that movie?), Actress to Jennifer Lawrence, Supporting Actress to Hathaway, original screenplay to Boal, Cinematography to Life of Pi... and so on. Argo is also the one I least want to win, is the most insubstantial, etc, which is always a sure sign. 

Heineken® celebrates 140 years of connecting people with social media powered installation

People across the world are invited to take part in a ‘global cheers’

Amsterdam, December 2012: Heineken® marks its 140-year anniversary with the launch of a spectacular light installation and is inviting people across the globe to connect in celebration in a fun and groundbreaking way. It has illuminated its spiritual home at the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam with five thousand iconic green Heineken bottles, each carrying an LED light inside to create a digital video screen like never seen before, starring its millions of fans around the world. 

The innovative exhibit will stand tall outside the building from December 7th 2012 - January 3rd 2013 - the first ever installation of its kind of this scale, celebrating Heineken’s inventive spirit. As part of an open global party people are invited to share their own celebration messages through the power of Facebook which light up in a dynamic animated showcase, alongside bold visuals inspired by the brand’s iconic evolution.
Cyril Chazart, Senior Director, Global Heineken Brand at HEINEKEN said: “Heineken’s proud to celebrate its 140th anniversary – not by dwelling on history but by reaching out to the world and inviting everybody to join in, just as we have been connecting people since we first launched.

He added: “Heineken has the mindset of an explorer - always looking forward and progressing and it is this quality that has made it such an iconic brand. We are always seeking new and exciting ways to engaging with our consumers around the world, igniting the conversation and tapping into their lives.”

To help Heineken celebrate its 140th year, people are invited to share a personal celebration message and a picture of themselves via a dedicated tab on Heineken’s Facebook page. This will form part of a dynamic animated dance sequence bringing the party to life on the bottle wall and ensuring that while the installation takes place in Heineken’s native home Amsterdam, fans can still dance the night away in an exciting global celebration to mark a landmark in the brand’s history.

For more information or to take part:

PRADA Spring+Summer 2013 campaign unveiled | Features actors Benicio del Toro and many more!

As stated in the official Prada site, simplicity, detail and the emergence of a new elegance are the inspiration for this campaign. Taking four leading men - two of them iconic stars and two trailblazing new talents - bring their individual sense of style.

The campaign features Dane DeHaan (Chronicle and The place Beyond the Pines), Benicio del Toro (Traffic, The Usual Suspects), Harvey Keitel (Taxi Driver, Reservoir Dogs) and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Savages & Anna Karenina).

For the Womenswear, extreme simplicity is the mood and the line up consists of an impressive and dynamic ensemble with models Vanessa Axente, Saskia de Brauw, Irina Kravchenko, Eva Herzigova, Sung Hee, Irene Hiemstra, Kirsten Owen, Sasha Pivovarova, Amber Valletta, Meertje Verhoef and Raquel Zimmermann. Photography by David Sims.

Take a look at these exciting samples and see if you don't feel the excitement. To read more about the campaign, visit

Kodak film is not dead: rejoice!

My kodak film collection.
Great news guys! Kodak confirmed that they’re selling only sales divisions. That means Kodak will still produce film, it will just be branded differently.
Below a random scattering of images that I shoot with Kodak Color 200.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Northwest Leads the Nation in Snow

With winter beginning tomorrow, it is a suitable time to recognize that the Northwest not only leads the nation in aircraft production, apple harvests, PC software, and hydropower, but something even more important: snow.   Take a look at the official snow depth map from the NOAA/NWS National Snow Analysis
The purple colors are the heaviest snow on the map, virtually all of it over the mountains of the Pacific Northwest and southern B.C.   Yes, I have to give credit to our neighbors to the north (but that is a short drive for us anyway).

How does the current snow pack compare to normal?  Be prepared to be impressed!

Nearly all of Washington State is very much above normal, with nearly 250% of normal in the Olympics and around 150% of normal in the Cascades.  The northern Rockies are in good shape too.  Another winner is the Sierra, with roughly 150% of normal near Tahoe.  Poor Colorado, they are substantially below normal, but they did get quite a bit recently.

This year we not only have a lot of snow, but the quality is very good....loads of powder because the fresh stuff of the past week has not been rained on and then refrozen.  Our local ski resorts are distributing images of fantasy powder skiing, like this:

Picture courtesy of Steven Pass
and the descriptions of the snow conditions suggest a chance of the lifetime:

"Tuesday was a powder feast with the best snow conditions many of us have ever skied. It was deep, light and bottomless. Smiles were large, high fives were in abundance and the words "best day ever" were heard as skiers and boarders gathered at the end of the day." 

You could imagine appropriate triumphal music in the background.

We have had so much snow lately that one ski area (Baker) is closed.  The heavy snow of the past week has caused at least one hundred trees to fall along the Mt. Baker Highway, closing the road, probably through the weekend.   Pretty frustrating, considering there is a 150 inch base at Baker's Heather Meadow ski area.
The road to Mt. Baker (courtesy of WSDOT)

So will the gods of snow continue this boon to local skiers?  Grease your skis and prepare your bindings. Here are the 500 hPa  upper level charts for two times during the next week.  We will consistent troughing (low pressure) over the eastern Pacific, which produces a cold, showery pattern over the region.  Continuous accumulation of snow.  No warm rain to ruin things. The jet stream and main action will go south of Washington, and southern Oregon and northern CA should get some historic quantities.

 To show you this, here are the snow forecasts for the next two 72 h periods from the UW WRF model forecasts.  For the next few days the Sierra and Siskiyou Mts. will get hammered with many feet of snow (yards in some places).   We will slowly enhance our snowpack and BC/norther Rockies will get substantial amounts.

 For the second 72 hour period the snow accumulation is more evenly distributed up and down the coast, with over a foot of snow enjoyed by all.  Eastern Washington and Oregon get plenty.

 All and all, a nice Holiday gift for those who enjoy winter recreation, and the amounts should not be heavy enough to mess up the roads.