Weather Blog

Need to warm up? Just climb up a few hundred feet

Need to warm up? Just climb up a few hundred feet
By my count, it's been exactly one week since I've thrown a squiggly weather chart on here, and the blog was starting to look a little too... unconfusing? So instead of resorting to writing today's entry in Pig Latin, I found this nice little head scratcher, but it's timely to discuss the current inversion.

Many of you have been stuck in the freezer all week, especially those in the South Sound near Puget Sound, such as Tacoma and Olympia, as cold air has remained pooled near the surface.

But just go up a few hundred feet, and it's blazing sunshine and spring-like temperatures, with highs well into the 50s, and even a few 60s reported at a few thousand feet.

How can you tell at home how high you need to go? Take a look at this chart above. This is a cross section of the atmosphere, with the colored lines showing temperature versus altitude at different hours of the day. (And the legend is in metric measurements. See, it does come in handy to know :) )

Anyway, on this example, let's follow the black line, which is the most recent -- 3 p.m. Wednesday.  You can see on the ground it is around 5 degrees C (41 F). On a normal day, this line trends straight up and slightly to the left, signifying cooler air as you go higher.

Here's an example of a one I picked at random on Jan. 5:

See how the lines lean left, showing it gets colder as you go higher

But in this case, it's different. Note on the image above how the temperature rises sharply once you get to about 350 meters (1050 feet), to where it's up to 10 degrees C (50 degrees F) at just over 800 meters (2,400 feet). 

(If you look at the yellow line, which is from 9 a.m. Wednesday morning, it's even more stark, going from roughly 30 degrees at the surface to 48 degrees at 2,500 feet.)

You can see the latest temperature profile here. The colors correspond to time codes in the upper right corner of the image. UTC is 8 hours ahead of PST.