Weather Blog

Clear skies allow for dramatic 'Blue moon' photos

Clear skies allow for dramatic 'Blue moon' photos
The month's second full moon, or Blue Moon, captivated viewers overnight. July 30, 2015. Photo by Tim Durkan Photography
One thing about the summer sunshine -- the clear skies at night have allowed for some great nighttime photos of the moon. But Friday, it's extra beneficial as we were treated to a "blue moon." It's actually just a well-timed full moon -- the modern "blue moon" definition is just when you have the second full moon in the same month. When you figure a moon's cycle is about 29 days, you can see it's fairly rare to squeeze two in a month.

Despite the name, the moon doesn't actually turn blue; and the full moon otherwise isn't much more notable than had the full moon been two weeks ago.

On average the blue moons occur about 4-5 times a decade, and then once every 19 years, you get two in the same year! Last time that happened was in 1999. This July is the first blue moon since August 2012. The next one won't be until January 2018 -- and there will also be one in March.

You can find out when the blue moons are with this handy Blue Moon Calculator by obliquity.com. One caveat -- blue moons can be different months depending on your time zone, if for example it happens at 2 a.m. Eastern Time on Aug. 1 but July 31 at 11 p.m. Pacific Time, the blue moon for Seattle will be in July but in New York, it'll be August. (No issues in the U.S. this year, Seattle's blue moon happened at 4:41 a.m. PDT Friday.)

How we define a blue moon now is actually not how it was originally intended. It was supposed to be the name for a moon when you have four full moons in a three-month period -- the third full moon was then known as the blue moon. An article in Sky & Telescope magazine in 1943 had an error in the original interpretation and gave it the definition we know of today.

The error was discovered by the magazine's editor in 1999, but the cat is way out of the bag now, so the two in a month usage has since trumped the four in a season definition as popular use.

Even the most in-shape firefighters affected by Seattle's heat wave

Even the most in-shape firefighters affected by Seattle's heat wave

Firefighters, by the nature of their job, already have one of the hottest jobs you could imagine. But what about when Mother Nature brings blazing temperatures on the outside as well?

When a massive fire broke out in an apartment building on Queen Anne Hill on July 1 , firefighters were called in from as far away as Redmond, Shoreline and Bellevue as temperatures were sitting at 90 degrees. Why so many firefighters from all over? To make sure there were plenty on hand to rotate in and out so firefighters didn't overheat.

And with 90 degrees suddenly common this summer around Seattle, I wondered how local fire departments were dealing with the relentless heat, and how they manage to keep firefighters cool when their surroundings are burning up.

Photos: New stunning pics of Earth from International Space Station

Photos: New stunning pics of Earth from International Space Station
Subtropical Storm #Ana churns off the East coast of USA. #Wx from @Space_Station. #YearInSpace (Photo & Caption: Capt. Scott Kelley / NASA)

Seattle was oh-so-close to having an officially wet July

Seattle was oh-so-close to having an officially wet July

The skies opened up, the rains poured down, and Seattle obliterated a record for wettest July 26th on record with nearly an inch of rain in a few hours!

Were you actually in Seattle Sunday and are wondering, "what's Scott typing about? It rained for a few minutes, but record?!?" you're not alone.

Worldwide strengthening El Nino giveth and taketh away

Worldwide strengthening El Nino giveth and taketh away

You've probably already heard the news, especially if you've read my blog anytime in the past six months, that El Nino is here and getting stronger. Scientists say there is a greater than 90 percent chance of El Nino this winter and an 80 percent chance it lasts into the spring.

El Nino's around here have a hallmark of bringing a winter that's not only warmer than usual but drier than usual as well. This plus the infamous "warm blob" of ocean heat offshore and this winter may already be a lost cause for much in the way of lowland snow and puts serious doubts into getting much in the way of mountain snow either.

This video shows why Midwesterners laugh at Seattle storms

Sunday's scattered thunderstorms probably qualified as a relatively stormy day around, here, especially by Northwest standards. Some spots had some torrential rain, and we had a few reports of hail, none super large though.

Western Washington is fortunate that our marine climate makes actual severe weather systems just about impossible to form; and what thunderstorms we get pale in comparison to just about any other thunderstorm you'd find east of the Cascades.

Restless Convergence Zone brings rain 15 different times to Everett

Restless Convergence Zone brings rain 15 different times to Everett
Photo courtesy Paine Field Web Camera

Not that many around here use an umbrella to begin with, but if we did, they would probably be mechanically worn out this weekend, at least if you lived around Everett.

A weak Puget Sound Convergence Zone hung out over a narrow band of Snohomish County from start to finish Saturday, but like a 2-year-old at a restaurant, it wasn't content to just sit still.

The zone was only a few miles wide and drifted north and south from about the King-Snohomish County line back up into Downtown Everett… and back again as the corresponding north and south winds pushed back and forth like a tug of war.

Weekend rain showers dripping with irony for Seattle

Weekend rain showers dripping with irony for Seattle
Chart showing number of times Seattle has had measurable rain on each day from Jan. 1, 1893- Dec. 31, 2014. (Data courtesy: National Weather Service. Chart courtesy: Evan Schmidt)

We're in the midst of one of the hottest and driest summers in recent memory. Seattle hadn't had measurable rain since June 28 and hasn't had significant rain since June 1. The last time it rained on a weekend? April 25.

So naturally, one of the weekends it rarely rains is the one weekend when it does rain.

The last weekend in July is statistically the driest in Seattle with the first weekend in August no slouch. It's rained only about 9-12 times in the past 122 years on those dates -- or about once every 10 years.

In soggy Seattle, that's the best odds you can ask for. That's why Seafair's biggest events are this time of year; why Torchlight Parade is this Saturday evening and why savvy locals know to rush to book their outdoor wedding or party the instant the last weekend in July becomes available on the venue's calendar.

Why has it been so warm so long? This picture says 1,000 words

Why has it been so warm so long? This picture says 1,000 words

We're coming up on 17 months in a row with above normal temperatures on average, and several of those months have been the warmest on record in Seattle. This summer, we've had dozens of days in the 80s, already the second-most 90-degree days on record with August still to come. The coldest low temperature we've had in the entire month of July? 57. The average low is 55.

People have been asking me why has it been so warm for so long? Well, NOAA did me a favor and sent out this handy graphic which shows exactly why: The warm Pacific Ocean.

Sharknadoes -- COULD THEY HAPPEN HERE?!?

Sharknadoes -- COULD THEY HAPPEN HERE?!?
Screen grab from SyFy preview video for movie "Sharknado"

Scott's note: It's SHARKNADO DAY! Sharknado 3 airs tonight at 9pm on the SyFy Network. To celebrate, the blog today has encore entry from when the first one aired two years ago. And if you want to watch the latest installment along with me, I'll be Live Tweeting during the show on my Twitter page @ScottsKOMO


Story originally published July 12, 2013:

Sharks.

Tornado.

Sharknado.

Social media and water coolers were abuzz Friday with the next DVD blockbuster sci-fi (emphasis on the 'fi') movie "Sharknado" that aired on the Sy-Fy channel Thursday night.

But this jaw-dropping (jaw-clenching?) story brought up an important facet of meteorological studies that have been historically and woefully underfunded: The science of shark-infested tornadoes from hurricanes that strike the Pacific Coast of the United States.

Seattle warm stretch to last into October ... 2016?!?

Seattle warm stretch to last into October ... 2016?!?
Photo: Mark T. Davis

OK, I admit it, I'm cheating the headline. It's nearly the same headline I wrote last month in my blog, only it said September instead of October. But the new monthly maps have been updated, and -- surprise -- the warm blobs in the forecast remain intact through not just this fall, but next autumn as well.

In the short term, there still remains very high confidence the Northwest will have a hot remainder of summer, and, well, it was sure right about the first part of summer.

We've already had as many hot days so far this year than we average in an entire year, shattered the record for hottest June on record, and the first half of July in on the pace to set the same record (although there are some signs July will back off the flamethrower switch after the weekend. More on that in a bit.) In fact, if the second half of July were to mirror the first half, we'd be talking about hottest month in Seattle history! (But as I just teased, that seems unlikely.)

Friday Night Lights: Another incredible summer sunset

Friday Night Lights: Another incredible summer sunset
Photo: Greg Johnson, SkunkBayWeather.com