Weather Blog

Time lapse video shows how those spooky 'hat' clouds form on Mt. Rainier

The sometimes-eerie-looking "Hat" clouds -- officially known as lenticular clouds -- are no stranger to Mt. Rainier. But while to many it might just look like a cloud frozen in time, there is actually quite a bit of air movement involved in making the clouds.

KOMO News photographer Mitch Pittman was up hiking in the Cascades recently and managed to get this amazing time lapse video (above) of a lenticular cloud sitting atop Mt. Rainier. The video is a great illustration of the flow that goes into making the cloud's lens-type feature.

The clouds are formed when you have three ingredients: Warm, moist air that is just on the cusp of saturation, laminar flow (when you have winds constant with height -- as in little to no turbulence or shear) and something big to get in the way, like, say, the region's tallest mountain.

When the air flows over the mountain, it will create waves either atop the mountain, downstream, or both, where the air is now going up and down, and up, and down -- like ripples on a pond or waves on the ocean. When the air goes up, it cools a little bit and when conditions are on the cusp of saturation, that slight cooling is enough to create a cloud. When the air sinks back down again, an opposite drying effect occurs and the cloud disappears.

While to us it might look like the clouds are floating in place, in fact, the air is streaming through the cloud as it hovers there -- think of someone pedaling a stationary bike instead of just sitting on a bike and not moving.

And sometimes the effect propagates downstream from the mountain, making alien-type clouds appear to be hovering alongside the peaks, like this video from Edward Aites:



Atmospheric conditions needed to make the cloud are typically found a day or so before an approaching rain event -- thus the local know when you see a hat on Mt. Rainier -- it's just the mountain getting ready to keep its head dry!

Strange but true: Washington has more tornadoes this year than Midwest states

Strange but true: Washington has more tornadoes this year than Midwest states

Scott's Note: The story was true when published on March 23, 2015. There have since been tornadoes in the Midwest as of March 25.

In proof that you can spin statistics in numerous ways, you could truthfully declare that Washington has been one of the most tornado-prone states in the nation this year.

That includes typical tornado alley stalwarts Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. At least as of March 23, they haven't had any tornadoes reported! They join 43 other states with that distinction.

Say what? Seattle had as many spring days as winter days this past season

Say what? Seattle had as many spring days as winter days this past season
Daffodils bloom in view of the Space Needle and clear blue skies, Wednesday, March 4, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

As winter comes to a close Friday afternoon at 3:45 p.m., pardon us in Seattle if we hardly notice.

In fact, if it's felt like spring has been around a while, you'd be right, no matter what the calendar tells you.

Northern Lights turn region's skies green for St. Patrick's Day

Northern Lights turn region's skies green for St. Patrick's Day
Photo of the Northern Lights as seen from Picnic Point in Edmonds early on the morning of March 17, 2015. (Photo courtesy: Julia Kelley)

Surprise!

A bit of a sneaky and severe solar storm hit the planet last night, bringing a show of the Northern Lights in the wee hours of St. Patrick's Day morning.

The photo above was taken by Julia Kelley who went down to Picnic Point Beach last night to catch some fresh air and relax.

How long did the warmth last in past record-warm winters?

How long did the warmth last in past record-warm winters?
Will Seattle ever see snow again in the lowlands? While this warm winter might have you thinking not, all hope is not lost.

The winters of 1976-77 and 1991-92 have been getting a lot of attention of late as they've been the previous standards to which past warm winters have been compared to. It'll be this current winter from here on out as we've already essentially shattered records for mild winters in Seattle, but I have received quite a few emails from people wondering how long can we expect this pattern to continue?

Specifically, they've asked how long it took after those aforementioned two winters to "get back to normal"?

Sunday's soaking showers stats for Seattle

Sunday's soaking showers stats for Seattle

Seattle's little-known fact outside the local area is how we get rain quite often, but it usually comes in drips and drizzles and it's why Seattle ranks behind several other U.S. Cities in annual rainfall.

But Sunday? Not so much.

Moments of zen: Amazing time lapse videos from around the globe

Moments of zen: Amazing time lapse videos from around the globe
Screen grab of time lapse video presented by Bevan Percival showing a sunset in New Zealand.

I focus a lot on Northwest photography in my weather blog - and why not? The natural beauty here is the gift that keeps on giving.

But in today's blog, I'm spanning the globe to showcase some of the gorgeous scenes Nature provides, via a compilation of time lapse videos.

El Nino finally here, now that the party's almost over

El Nino finally here, now that the party's almost over
Daffodils bloom in view of the Space Needle and clear blue skies, Wednesday, March 4, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

It was supposed to the guest of "honor" at the annual fall and winter festivities in the Pacific Northwest this year, but as we all stood milling around, El Nino was fashionably late.

Then it was pretty late.

Then we all started glancing at our watches. Did El Nino get lost? Did its GPS lead it astray? Car broke down?

'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: