Weather Blog

Sunbreaks as rare as a unicorn? Maybe more like a kangaroo...

If you read our online forecast yesterday, I highlighted one of our local expert weather haikuist Lisa Brooks from KOMO Radio who penned the haiku:

"If a sunbreak was
an elusive unicorn
Seattle would be home."

(OK, so she admits you have to slur 'Seattle' a bit to make it work, but close enough)

But guess what? Sunbreaks haven't really been that rare this year. Yes, it's been cooler than normal for a while, but cloudy? Not as much as it's supposed to be. Here is a table of our sunshine tally so far this year:

  Sunny (Observed) Sunny (Avg) Pt. Cloudy (Obs) Pt. Cloudy (Avg) Cloudy (Obs) Cloudy (Avg)
January 4 3 6 4 21 24
February 2 3 11 4 16 21
March 1 3 16 6 14 22
April 2 3 15 7 13 20
May/June 1 4 14 9 19 18
Totals 10 16 62 30 83 105

(Note, the average totals are only through May 31, so we skew a bit there because the May totals include June 1-3, which were all cloudy.)

First of all, when people see this, they wonder -- how in the heck to you measure sunshine? (Well, actually, their first question is: "10 sunny days? Your sun-o-meter-thingy must be broken.")

There really is a sun-o-meter-thingy. It has a more official name, but the name escapes me and Google is not helping me joggle my memory. Anyway, it can tell when it's receiving direct sunlight and counts how many minutes it occurred.  It then takes that number and divides it by the number of minutes of expected daylight in the day to get a ratio.

If the sun shone for 70% of the daylight hours or longer, it's an official sunny day. If it's between 30-70%, it's a partly cloudy day, and less than 30% is a cloudy day.

And aside from yesterday's deluge, it actually has been drier than normal this spring.

So... we've had more sunshine than usual, and it's been drier than usual, so why the gloomy feeling? I think it's the fact that it's been so much cooler than normal. I posted those stats two blog entries ago (see link on right side -- "It's a cool, cool summer") and so far in June, we're 5 degrees below normal.

And long range forecasts for the rest of this week and into early next week keep us 5-8 degrees below normal under generally cloudy skies. Maybe unicorn isn't such a bad reference after all?

Convergence Zone Follow Up

A little follow up yesterday on the Convergence Zone that had all the feeling of a tropical storm, only without the wind and cute name,  was that a doozy or what?

Each Convergence Zone has its own personality -- sort of like baking a cake without measuring cups and using things like "dash" and "spritz" -- the cake never quite turns out exactly the same way twice. (Actually, that is a rumor I hear. Cooking knowledge for me is limited to figuring out which burner to turn on.)   But that's why Zones are so hard to forecast and predict.

Yesterday's was classic -- we had strong winds wrapping around the Olympics and colliding full force over Snohomish and Northern King County. (Which is the classic location for this.) I live just south of Everett and it just poured like crazy there for hours on end. Meanwhile, Tacoma was high and dry.

Here are some radar images, courtesy of the UW, that show how persistent the rain was. Note how it's just parked right over northern King and Snohomish Counties (and also look at how a big cell stalled over Whatcom County too -- they received 1-2" of rain there as well.)

The first one was 4 p.m.

And here is 6 PM:

And below -- 9 p.m.; still going strong!

And finally, it begins to fizzle at Midnight:

Rainfall totals around the Convergence Zone area ranged from about 1.1" in Lynnwood to a report of 2.72" (which included the main front in the morning too) in North Seattle. To put that in perspective -- 2.72" is more than Sea-Tac Airport averages in all of June and July combined.

By the way -- one last recruiter note to join the National Weather Service's new citizen rainfall reporting brigade. It was valuable last night and will be incredibly resourceful once they get several volunteers signed up and we get a similar type Zone or storm in the future.  More information at