Weather Blog

Just how hot would a warm Seattle autumn and winter be?

Just how hot would a warm Seattle autumn and winter be?
Sunset over Deception Pass on Oct. 13, 2013. (Photo: Dana Weber)

We've all heard how it's been such a hot summer. And you've likely been reading about how the Pacific Northwest is expected to maintain a warmer than normal autumn and winter.

UW Atmospheric Sciences professor Cliff Mass just did an excellent blog post showing why we're expected to be so warm. In a nutshell, Mass says a persistent ridge of high pressure last fall that kept the storms away also keep the ocean from churning very much, which is needed to mix in some cooler water from the depths of the ocean.

Without that mixing, the Pacific has been running warmer than normal off our coast (he referred to it as "the blob" as in a blob of warmer waters) and that has been the culprit of our warmer summer and higher humidity. Models suggest that pattern will maintain through the autumn and winter, helping in turn keep the air mass warmer.

And perhaps making things even warmer is the pending potential for El Nino. Yes, climate forecasters have been gradually trimming their confidence in a developing El Nino this fall and winter, dropping the odds from 80 percent to 65 percent to now in the low 60s percent range and starting a little later, but it's still the odds-on favorite and the prudent bet for this winter. El Nino's usually also bring a mild-to-warm winter around here on its own.

But combine "the Blob" with "El Nino" and you not only get two words that could make an amazing hashtag if combined together the right way (#Blobino? #ElBlobo?), but Mass says it's a recipe for a really mild autumn and winter, and sure enough, he presented some maps that do forecast a much warmer than normal period coming up, both October-December and even warmer for December through February.

Now I've had a few people email me wondering what exactly a warm autumn and winter would entail? I think some people are wondering as hot days well into the 80s persist into September, if we're predicting 70s and 80s to continue right into the heart of the Holidays and into the snow season, and if we'll be wearing shorts on New Year's Day.

No, we're not turning into Phoenix North, so you snow birds don't have to come running back home, but I thought I'd go back into some of our warmest autumns and winters on record to see what kind of weather pushes our boundaries of warmth.

The warmest October through December on record was 1976 with an average temperature of 49.1 degrees – that’s found by taking the high and low and dividing by 2. The average-average is 45.9.

  • October had 3 days over 70 degrees, 9 additional days over 65. Average highs start at 65 degrees, dropping to 55 degrees by Halloween. There were 25 days with no measurable rain, including a 12-day dry streak.
  • November had 8 days over 60, and only 7 days in the 40s. It was again super dry with 22 days with no measurable rain, including another 10 day dry streak. Only five nights were at or below freezing.
  • December had a whopping 19 days over 50 degrees, including seven days warmer than 55 and a 61 degree reading. Highs are normally in the low-mid 40s here. Just two days at or below freezing for lows. And again dry – 20 days with no measurable rain. There was no lowland snow in the period.

Perhaps most telling: The entire winter season amassed just 191 total inches of snowfall at Snoqualmie Pass – the lowest amount on record since the mid 1940s. Average is 439 inches per season.

The second-warmest Oct-Dec was 1965, but that was skewed by a really warm October – 14 days at warmer than 65 degrees with seven of those days at *70* or warmer. And the month had 18 days with no rain. As mentioned, their November and December were fairly normal with actually a significant snow event that spanned 10 days around Christmas. The month would have 510” of snow at Snoqualmie – actually a bit above normal. So 1965 is the outlier.

Third place was 1980, which had six days warmer than 70 in October with one day over 80(!). November ended up normal and then December had a very warm spell to end the year, but it was more tropical warmth courtesy of relentless Pineapple Express-type storms – four days late over 55 degrees and two warmer than 60. Snoqualmie ended up with 219 inches of seasonal snow – third lowest.

But the best year of comparison might be the winter of 1991-92, which had the warmest December-February on record, but also had a very warm winter overall, stretching November through April. Here are their average monthly temperatures and departures from normal:

November 47.3 (+1.9), December 43.8 (+3.2), January 43.9 (+1.9), February 47.3 (+3.9), March 50.3 (+3.8) and April 53.1 (+2.8)

  • November: A whopping 23 days were at 50 degrees or warmer, with seven days at 55+ and two days 60-plus.
  • December: 13 days 50+, 2 days over 55; only 5 days below normal, no highs under 40, only 4 days of lows at or below freezing.
  • January (1992): 14 days 50+, 5 days 55+, 3 days 59+. This month had a lot of rain at the end as we went intense Pineapple Express. A 15-day rain streak brought 6.19" of rain. There were no highs in 30s, only five days of freezing lows.
  • February: 20 days 50+, 15 days 55+, 6 days 60+, 3 days 65+! There was only one single solitary low at freezing.
  • March: 16 days 60+, 5 days 65+. There were no freezing lows.

So that means from November 1 through March 31, just 10 days with lows at or below freezing.

And as you might imagine, not one lowland snowflake across the winter. Up in the mountains, snow was in short supply, and Snoqualmie Pass tallied its second-lowest seasonal snow total of 211 inches.

Now, that’s not to say that the autumn and winter of 2014-2015 will follow exactly to suit, but it does describe what we might expect if the forecasts hold true: No, there won’t be days in the 70s and 80s in the winter, but there may not be a whole lot of snow either, be it in the lowlands or the mountains.

How Seattle’s rainy reputation stands up against the world

How Seattle’s rainy reputation stands up against the world
FILE -- Visitors to downtown Seattle huddle under umbrellas while walking in the shopping district. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Most longtime locals know the drill: It rains often in Seattle but as far as quantity, Seattle is nowhere near the top of the charts.

Now there’s a handy interactive chart that helps illustrate this fact.

Northern Lights could make appearance tonight

Northern Lights could make appearance tonight
Northern Lights shine over Puget Sound. (Photo courtesy Eddie Murdock Photography

A strong solar storm is in progress, and for those ever hoping to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, its timing couldn't be better.

Spaceweather.com says not one, but two coronal mass ejections (CMEs -- fancy word for solar flares) erupted and came hurtling toward Earth.

The first one has already passed, but the second one is in progress which means Friday night could see a display of the Northern Lights. It's a near slam dunk for the higher latitudes but even our area has a chance to get a peek if the stars align.

Sunny Northwest day stuns ISS astronaut

Sunny Northwest day stuns ISS astronaut
Photo: Reid Wiseman, NASA

I would think being an astronaut living on the International Space Station would find a new sight each day in the cosmos to be in sheer wonder.

Friday brought a rare sight to NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman -- something he says never happens and he had a front row seat.

A galaxy supernova? Not quite; seen it before.

Rain on the moon? That would qualify but still no need for meteorologists there.

No, while it was weather-related, it had to do with our own Pacific Northwest:

Seattle's craziest 0.12"-of-rain-day ever?

Seattle's craziest 0.12"-of-rain-day ever?
Streets flood in Ballard after a heavy rain squall on Sept. 2, 2014. (Photo: Cameron Bruce.)

When someone peeks back at the weather entry for Sept. 2, 2014, they'll see Seattle got a 0.12" of rain and figure it was a routine September day.

Then they'll find this story and wonder what happened and how a tenth of an inch of rain did so much? Seattle got triple that amount on Saturday with nary an issue.

For one, the rain was a bit heavier in the heart of the city and managed to miss the airport -- the perils of having an official station be located 12 miles south of the city. NOAA's official reporting station at Sand Point recorded an amazing 0.58" of rain.

Not just hot days but warm nights this summer... again

Not just hot days but warm nights this summer... again
Photo courtesy: Tim Durkan Photography

This weekend, I wrote that this "summer" - or at least the heart of it from July 1 to August 31, was the second-warmest on record at Sea-Tac Airport by average high temperature.

Turns out, we also set an all-time record for the period if you factor in average temperature, which is calculated by taking the day's high and low and diving by two. This year's average for the two months checked in at 69.2 degrees, breaking the 1967 record of 68.8 degrees.

Seattle finishes 2nd warmest July-August on record

Seattle finishes 2nd warmest July-August on record
Photo: Shubha Tirumale Photography

Wow, what a warm summer it's been. July started it off being the 4th warmest on record by average high temperature (2nd warmest by overall average temperature) and August picked up the baton and just kept going.

This August will finish up the 5th warmest on record by average high temperature at 79.5 degrees. It's a far cry from the record hottest August (83.7 degrees in 1967) but then again, second place was 80.3 so all years are a far cry from 1967.

So individually, the months were pretty impressive, but combined, it's even moreso.

Updated forecasts still say mild, dry winter on tap for Seattle

Updated forecasts still say mild, dry winter on tap for Seattle
Sun sets behind the Space Needle on Aug. 25, 2014. (Photo courtesy: Tim Durkan Photography)

First off, let me start this blog by saying if you're a skier, snowboarder, or big winter fan, you might want to skip over to the sports section. Happier news in Seattle there these days.

For those who have the stomach to continue, the new August version of the long-range 90-day forecasts issued each month by NOAA are in and while the forecasts themselves for this fall and winter haven't changed much in what they've been saying, the tone of the message is a little stronger for some months.

2014 going to end up as much hotter summer in Seattle than 2009

2014 going to end up as much hotter summer in Seattle than 2009

At least as far as recent memory goes, 2009 set quite the standard for a hot summer in Seattle. That year was home to a brutal two-week stretch of heat that peaked at 103 degrees in Seattle on July 29 and had several days over 90.

This summer hasn't been anywhere near as hot, at least as far as peak heating goes. We have four total days at 90 or warmer and a 96 degree reading earlier this month, but no real "trophy heat waves", as I call them. As in: No long stretches over 90. In fact, all our 90 degree days this year have been orphans -- just one in a row.

The science behind the smell of rain

The science behind the smell of rain
A rainy window pane on a stormy day in Seattle. (Photo courtesy: Michael Mclaughlin Photography

Ever notice there's a distinct smell right after it starts raining?

It's most noticeable when it's been dry for a long while and the shower is fairly heavy. My wife, who grew up in Arizona, referred to this as the "wet rock" smell and there is some truth to it as it's rock that's among the main culprits for giving off the smell.

Photos: Breathtaking pics of Earth from International Space Station

Photos: Breathtaking pics of Earth from International Space Station
A pop-up book for space travelers. Clouds reaching so high I couldn’t believe it. (Photo & Caption: Reid Wiseman, NASA)

Sneaky thunderstorm briefly lights up skies over Whidbey Island

Sneaky thunderstorm briefly lights up skies over Whidbey Island
Photo courtesy: Greg Johnson, Skunkbayweather.com

Who here knew there were thunderstorms last night?

Me neither.

But as a weak trough slid over the region overnight, it managed to trigger a thunderstorm in the dead of night.

As in one. A very lonely thunderstorm.

Seattle on pace for hottest July-August in Sea-Tac history

Seattle on pace for hottest July-August in Sea-Tac history
Mt. Rainier basks in sunshine behind Seattle's Great Wheel on July 1, 2014. (Photo courtesy: Youn Sung)

Seattle has already notched the fourth-warmest July on record by average high temperature (second warmest by average temperature), but apparently this summer has its sights set on loftier goals.

As of Monday night's data, August was also on pace to be the second-warmest August at Sea-Tac Airport, currently sitting at an average high of 81.7 degrees. The record is a lofty 83.7 degrees so we'd need to really turn up the burners to reach that record.