Weather Blog

High confidence warm autumn to continue as a warm winter

High confidence warm autumn to continue as a warm winter
View of Seattle downtown from Issaquah Highlands on Dec. 14, 2014. (Photo: Shubha Tirumale Photography‎)

SEATTLE -- As December attempts to set the record for warmest one in at least the 69 years at Sea-Tac and perhaps the warmest even counting the Federal Building back to 1890, the news as we turn the page to official winter is not good for skiers.

The 90-day long range seasonal models for January through March have come out from NOAA and the news is more of the same, if not even a little worse than before: A very high confidence that the winter season will end up warmer than normal in the Pacific Northwest.

Already we've been measuring snow in the mountains in single digits across many locations for much of December. A storm Thursday night brought a bit more snow to push Snoqualmie Pass to about 13 inches on the ground as of Friday morning with Stevens Pass around 16 inches and Mt. Baker up to 22 inches.

But another warm, Pineapple Express type storm this weekend threatens to melt and wash away a significant chunk of it. And that could be the recurring theme of the winter as well.

Here is the temperature forecast for January through March, showing a very high confidence -- over 60 percent, which is quite high by seasonal forecast standards -- for warmer than normal conditions to continue in the Pacific Northwest, particularly western Washington and northern Oregon. The rest of the West Coast isn't much better, and neither is Alaska.



The rainfall map also shows drier than normal conditions likely in Washington while very wet conditions across California and the South -- very typical of an El Nino winter.

What's Up With El Nino Anyway?

El Nino continues to cause some head scratching in that the sea temperatures have warmed in the Central Pacific to El Nino-type levels, but the atmosphere has yet to take notice. But climate models continue to indicate we're going to get there, even if it might be a weak event.

But while El Nino has yet to really take the wheel of driving the global weather patterns, locally we're still dealing with warmer waters in the Northern Pacific Ocean which has been a major factor in our months-long warm spell.

Aside from the El Nino/La Nina impacts, there is the Pacific Decadal Oscillation which is also a pattern of warming/cooling ocean waters, but more in the northern Pacific Ocean waters and tends to be more of a 10-30 year cycle pattern than the 3-7 year cycle of El Nino/La Nina. Warm PDO's tend to keep the Pacific Northwest warmer and at the start of 2014 we switched from a long cool phase to a much warmer phase and now sit at among the warmest levels since 2005.

Thus, the forecast going forward seems to indicate the West Coast will continue to deal with warmer than normal temperatures for a while. Here are the rolling 90-day forecast maps going forward:



Now, as we've seen even this autumn -- being in a generally warm pattern doesn't mean it can't get cold on occasion -- we've already seen two fairly decent cold snaps with even a bit of lowland snow at the end of November. And the forecast is trending for a cooler pattern for a while as we head toward the end of the year.

But overall, it seems like days in the 50s could outnumber the days in the 40s in the lowlands, and snow events in the mountains could be fleeting.

Family speaks of how surreal hailstorm destroyed home in 12 minutes

Family speaks of how surreal hailstorm destroyed home in 12 minutes
A home's siding is torn off after being blistered by large hail and strong winds in Hooper, Nebraska on June 3, 2014. (Photo courtesy: Kevin Krohn )

On June 3, 2014, a storm featuring 50-80 mph winds and tennis ball-to-softball-size hail sandblasted a tiny town in eastern Nebraska, leaving homes in tatters. Lois Krohn was home when the ferocious storm hit and now more than six months after the storm, shares her story of being in the middle of Mother Nature's wrath.

Where's the snow? We're on pace to obliterate record for warmest December

Where's the snow? We're on pace to obliterate record for warmest December
Summit Snoqualmie is among many ski resorts playing the waiting game this winter. (Photo: Summit at Snoqualmie Web Cam)

At the start of the month, I blogged about how Seattle needed essentially just a normal December by temperature to set the record for warmest year on record by overall average temperature.

Now that we've reached the halfway point, it's not only looking like the annual record is going down, but perhaps the all-time monthly record too! And all you have to do is glance at the mountains to see it's taking a toll on the snowpack.

'Fried Green Tornadoes'? -- Weather nerds, movie buffs combine geekiness on Twitter

'Fried Green Tornadoes'? -- Weather nerds, movie buffs combine geekiness on Twitter

If you are, or know someone who is a weather nerd, they've probably been distracted (more than usual) checking their Twitter feed trying to outdo the world on coming up with the best film titles about meteorology.

The hashtag #MeteorologicalFilms caught fire this weekend and is trending worldwide, calling out all weather gurus to put down the GFS charts and instead try to rhyme their way into the internet world hall of fame (or, at least get a few amused retweets or favorites.)

How windy was it Thursday night?

How windy was it Thursday night?
A downed tree covers a car in a neighborhood near the Capitol after a powerful windstorm in Washington state, Friday, Dec. 12, 2014, in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)

Here are the peak gusts from Thursday night's windstorm, as compiled by the National Weather Service.

Got shorts? Seattle crushes record for warmest December day

Got shorts? Seattle crushes record for warmest December day

It seems a bit weird -- normally when you think of setting all time heat records, the sun is shining, clouds are sparse to non-existent, Alki Beach is full of people and Frappuccinos are a top seller.

Not so in Seattle in December…

With a downright tropical pattern in place this week already providing some warmth and a mega warm front pushing through the region Wednesday, temperatures got an added boost to levels never before seen in December, despite a thick overcast, drenching rains, and wind gusts reaching 45-50 mph!

From a 'Whack-a-Mole' weather forecast to a perfect bulls eye

From a 'Whack-a-Mole' weather forecast to a perfect bulls eye
FILE -- Residents at the Windsor Park Apartments stand in a doorway as they check out a large tree that fell just to the side of their unit, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, at the Windsor Park Apartments in Auburn, Wash.

If you never needed a reason why meteorologists always talk about forecast model consistency, this example will help clarify.

With a potential windstorm upon us on Thursday, forecasters have been poring over models to get an idea of what's going to happen. When models change from run-to-run, it knocks down confidence as it signals the computers aren't quite sure what's going on. But when they stay the course, it gives us more confidence in the forecast.

Mid-month national forecast map has snow lovers seeing red

Mid-month national forecast map has snow lovers seeing red

Well, all that talk of "polar vortex" and "arctic blast" and "lake effect blizzards" are going to take a break...

The entire lower 48 states are about to head into a rather warm winter pattern next week, perhaps giving much of the nation not draped on a mountain top a break from any December snow.

Does snow in November in Seattle portend a snowier winter?

Does snow in November in Seattle portend a snowier winter?

The question emailed to me was one I hadn't really wondered about before: Does a snow in November typically signal a snowier winter overall in Seattle? As in: Does the early start sort of open the snowflake flood gates?

Good question! But the answer is: There is no significant correlation.

Going back to 1945, but not counting the years from 1996-2003 when snowfall was not tracked as an official statistic (what?!? Yep, someone at NOAA decided it wasn't important. They came to their senses again in 2003) there were 13 years when Seattle had measurable snow in November, and the results after that month ran the gamut.

Seattle is 2,397 degrees away from setting all-time warmth record

Seattle is 2,397 degrees away from setting all-time warmth record
Sun shines behind Seattle's Space Needle as seen from Ella Bailey park on Nov. 30, 2014. (Photo: Brendan Ramsey Photography)

The countdown, is on.

A chilly end to November wasn't enough to stop Seattle's streak of nine consecutive months with above normal temperatures measured by average temperature (which is taking the day's high and low and dividing by 2). November ended up 0.6 degrees above normal, buoyed by a very warm start to the month and a very mild and persistent Pineapple Express pattern in the days prior to our current cold snap that have balanced two rather chilly periods.

We now stand at an annual average high temperature of 55.9 degrees with December still to go. The record warmest year by average temperature is 54.4 degrees set in 1995.