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Puget Sound Weather Geek: Welcome the return of…Winter?!


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by Chris Scragg
Puget Sound Weather Geek [1]

In this article, I’m going to briefly describe the forecast for the next few days, and then go over the topics discussed during the Pacific Northwest Weather Workshop.

The weather patterns are beginning to shift, and Winter is returning with a vengeance.

An upper level low pressure system [2] traversed the region from the north on Thursday (2-26) which not only led to some heavier rain showers throughout the night, but will also lead to the onset of a rather potent cold spell in the days to come.

Cold air will come spilling through the Frasier River Valley and the gaps in the Cascade mountains in the weekend. Near freezing temperatures will rapidly begin to take hold during the nights, while the daytime highs will reach the upper 40s. Lows in the 20s are even possible by the middle of the week.

Here’s the 7-day forecast:

Pacific Northwest Weather Workshop 2015
This was the first time I’ve been to the Northwest Weather Workshop. I didn’t know much about it other than that Cliff Mass had been advertising it on his blog for the last month or so.

I arrived and was pleasantly surprised by the amount of people who came from every walk of life from all over the western US. I met lawyers, retail executives, chemists, medical doctors, and of course meteorologists and atmospheric scientists; all enthusiasts who love the weather.

The talks were 12 minutes each, and very diverse in the range of topics that they covered. Some talks were emotional in nature, and some talks focused purely on the science involved. Here is a description of some the topics that popped out to me the most! The National Weather Service will be releasing the full video of the talks and when that is rendered, I will post the link to it for all to see!

The first topic that was introduced was obviously the SR-530 Oso, WA Landslide. This catastrophic and tragic event was covered in detail from multiple angles. Ted Buehner  and Brent Bower (NWS Meteorologists) went in depth into the heavy rain events before the slide, and the Geology and Hydrology that came together to create the conditions that caused the slide to occur. Then, the event was described from the response and recovery perspective from Incident Meteorologist Andy Haner, Emergency Manager Heather Kelly, and Emergency Director John Pennington.

The next big topic discussed in length was models, models…and more models. The computer generated forecast models that forecasters and researchers use to simulate the atmosphere on high powered super computers were the primary discussion by many  scientists, forecasters and students throughout the event. Cliff Mass discussed the upgrades and changes to the  UW WRF-MM5 model that I use frequently use when looking at the short term and long range forecasts. There were a number of upgrades that have already been initiated that will make huge differences in forecast accuracy. Such changes will be: new computer components, upgraded land-surface models (essentially, how the model simulates the interaction between different features on the surface such as snow and vegetation with the atmosphere) as well as a future plan to improve the graphics of the model, and integrate it with Google Maps. This is exciting stuff for me!!

Scientists from the University of British Columbia talked about their in-house weather models that they’ve upgraded. There were several talks that went into researching different effects when various parameters are changed or fabricated to experiment with different results from the model outputs.

There was a session dedicated to Fire Weather that included talks about forecasting smoke plumes in Canada, and the thunderstorms that sparked the large and destructive Carlton Complex Fire in 2014.

My most favorite part of the Workshop was the “Year in Review” time lapse compilation that was captured and presented by Greg Johnson from Skunkbayweather.com [3]. This video in my opinion, perfectly portrays the passion that all of us weather enthusiasts have. Research and data is immensely important for the understanding and future of weather and climate forecasting, but nothing can intrigue and captivate as much as seeing the beauty and wonder of nature in action…especially when set to music! Here’s a link to the video!

http://www.skunkbayweather.com/WeatherWorkshop2015Presentation.html [4]

Over all, the Workshop was an enlightening experience, and I can’t wait to go again next year!

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Thanks for visiting! If you have any comments, suggestions, or feedback please email me at [email protected] [7]

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