Weather Blog

'Partly sunny' vs. 'mostly cloudy' -- yes they mean something different

'Partly sunny' vs. 'mostly cloudy' -- yes they mean something different
A partly sunny day over Tacoma and Mt. Rainier? Or mostly cloudy? (Probably "partly sunny"). Photo: Renee Fields Photography‎.

It's a surprisingly common question we get around here: "What's the difference between 'partly sunny' and 'mostly cloudy'? Isn't it if it's one, it's also the other?"

Yes and no. At least for the forecasts written by the National Weather Service, there are very specific definitions in their zone forecasts that are broken down into each region.

(You've likely seen those forecasts -- for instance, they're the ones in all caps you see if you've ever been a fan of "Weather on the 8's" on a certain dominant national weather channel.)

Warm winter bringing out the tulips early at Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Warm winter bringing out the tulips early at Skagit Valley Tulip Festival »Play Video
File photos of the tulips at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. (Photo: Brendan Ramsey)

Walk around the Puget Sound area and you'll notice trees starting to bloom and perhaps the whirr of a lawn mower or two, even though winter still had a solid 3-4 weeks left in its reign.

Seattle finished up February as the warmest on record, on the heels of a very warm January (and record-warm December) as well, and the early spring-time weather has in tandem brought out the first signs of spring.

L.A.-area beach turned white during intense hail storm

L.A.-area beach turned white during intense hail storm »Play Video
A surfer prepares to enter the water on a hail-covered beach, Monday, March 2, 2015, in Huntington Beach, Calif. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Allen J. Schaben)

You know it's been a paltry winter around here when beaches in Southern California look more the winter wonderland than some of our ski slopes.

Check out what happened in Huntington Beach when an intense hail storm moved through Monday morning.  Some of the pics from social media are truly amazing!

Here is the story from the Associated Press:

Seattle sets twin records for warmest February, winter on record

Seattle sets twin records for warmest February, winter on record
Sun sets over the Olympics on Feb. 28, 2015. (Photo: Sigma Sreedharan)

In what will go down as one of the best -- or worst -- winters on record, depending on what you want out of a Seattle winter, now there will be some meteorological trophies to go along with the memories.

Seattle has set its record for all-time warmest February since official measurements began at Sea-Tac Airport. The average temperature (high temperature plus low temperature, divided by two) was 48.8 degrees narrowly edging 1977's record at 48.7. (And I mean narrowly. Had Saturday just been one degree cooler, it would have been a tied record instead.)

WATCH: Northern Lights peek out over Western Washington

WATCH: Northern Lights peek out over Western Washington
Photo of Northern Lights on 15 second film exposure as seen from Mukilteo on Feb. 23, 2015. (Photo: Liem Bahneman)

It was a bit of a surprise considering there wasn't much solar flare activity but the Northern Lights made a faint appearance over Western Washington Monday night.

2 routine events combine for spectacular scene over Canadian skies

2 routine events combine for spectacular scene over Canadian skies
Photo of a "FallStreak" cloud spotted over Surrey, B.C. at sunrise on Feb. 22, 2015. (Photo courtesy: Zora Fernandez)

Those who were up early enough Sunday morning in Surrey, B.C. and happened to look up were treated to a spectacular scene in the heavens that looks like something straight out of the imagination of a futuristic Hollywood alien blockbuster film.

In actuality, it was the combination of two rather routine events that just happened to have impeccable timing:

A sunrise (one for the ages on its own) …and a plane descending through a solid, stable cloud layer.

Long range forecast maps: Short term gain, long term pain

Long range forecast maps: Short term gain, long term pain
Brilliant sunset on Feb. 16. (Photo credit: Mirwais Azami Photography)

It's the third week in February, and that means it's time for NOAA's monthly long range forecast update. But while skiers and snow lovers have probably trained themselves by now to just skip reading this type of entry in my blog, I bring tidings of GOOD NEWS!

Sort of.

Let's hold off the inevitable bad news for a few paragraphs to show this map in all its glory:

Central Nebraska about the only folks experiencing a normal February

Central Nebraska about the only folks experiencing a normal February
Map via WxBell showing expected temperature deviations from normal later this week, but is also essentially a snapshot of this winter's persistent pattern. (Photo courtesy: Susie Martin)

The weather pattern this winter has been stark in its dramatic differences -- temperatures at record-warm levels in the West, and a relentless march of arctic air masses pummeling the East.

The map above is a snapshot in time -- actually a forecast depicting areas of expected below and above normal temperatures for later this week, but it's been the consistent story the past several days anyway.

Seattle easily on pace for warmest winter on record

Seattle easily on pace for warmest winter on record
Photo: Brad Spiegel

As you look around to flowers budding, lawns needing mowing, and skiers frowning, signs are everywhere it's been a very mild winter. So it should come to no shock that we are indeed on pace to shatter records for warmest winter -- and autumn-winter combined -- since 1945 when Sea-Tac Airport became Seattle's official observation.

First, let's look at the overall numbers: