Weather Blog

Gulf of Alaska to world: Hurricane, schmericane

Gulf of Alaska to world: Hurricane, schmericane
Most of you weather geeks here probably already have Dr. Cliff Mass' weather blog bookmarked too, but in case you don't, take a peek at what he's got in there today.

He's highlighting an incredible storm that is roaming around in the Gulf of Alaska right now. Forecast models peg the center pressure at 946 millibars, which is on par with a strong Category 3 hurricane (just shy of Category 4 status). For those who have a home barometer thingy with the little dial on it, go look at it. See the lowest number where it says "stormy"? This would be even worse -- a central pressure of 27.94".

Cliff says models forecast a wide swath of sustained winds over 60 mph with much higher gusts in and around the storm, which hogs up most of the Gulf.

You can get a sense of wind by how packed together those black lines are on the forecast map. Those are pressure lines (isobars) and the greater the difference in pressure, the stronger the wind. You can see the black lines aren't quite so close together over the Northwest -- although more noticeable over northwestern Washington, where we are expecting some gusts to 50 mph Thursday.

For you hikers and mountain climbers, another visualization is think of it like a topographical map with each rung showing a decrease in altitude toward the "hole" that is the center of the storm. Now picture putting a metal ball bearing there on the edge (or, a hiker in roller blades) and imagine how steep a decline it would roll down toward the middle and how fast it would be going.

It is this storm's cold front that we are getting on Thursday, which would explain the forecast for heavy rain and wind, although the storm center is so far away that the wind here won't be too exciting.

It is eventually forecast to weaken a bit and make landfall just north of Juneau on Saturday, battering the Alaska Panhandle with some really good winds (which is why the cruise season ends in September :) ) but one thing that will be quite noticeable across the northern Pacific will be the ocean swells. They are predicted to be as much as 40 feet near the storm (so, four stories tall!) and be 20-30 feet when those swells reach the Washington and Oregon coast.

So aside from the driving rain Thursday along the coast, by Friday, the waves crashing on the beach will be incredible!

P.S. the storms are not considered hurricanes because they are not a tropical storm, but doesn't mean they can't be as powerful.