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Sunny, blue skies for days as Sea-Tac looks back at snowiest, third-coldest February

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
Mount Baker is seen some 85 miles distant behind the Space Needle under clear skies at sunset Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, from Seattle.

If you live in Western Washington and sunny, clear blue skies tend to lift your mood, you’re in luck. KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says temps will be in the mid-40s or higher with plenty of sun and no rain until early next week. He calls this kind of weather “totally boring.”

“It’s a good time for meteorologists to go on vacation – because nothing interesting is going to happen around here for the next several days,” said Mass, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Mass says high pressure over the eastern Pacific ocean combined with an area of low pressure off the Oregon coast is bringing dry, offshore flow into Western Washington, preventing any form of precipitation and holding temperatures in the mid-40s.

“Somewhat below normal,” Mass said of the temps but called the pattern “very, very benign.”


On Friday, he said Western Washington should expect highs of 47 or 48 degrees in the lowlands. “So not quite where we should be, but still warmer than we were,” compared to last month.

And Mass says the rest of the weekend, that pattern continues.

“Upper 40s on Saturday, maybe a little cooler air coming in on Saturday night,” he said.

That means Sunday and Monday, he expects temps to drop slightly and stay in the mid-40s. And it will remain very dry.

“All through the period, no precipitation at all,” he said. “And that’s all we got. It’s just going to be relatively nice, plenty of blue skies with a few clouds mixed in.”


The sun and warmth will come as a relief to many people in Washington. The statistics are in: based on measurements at Sea-Tac Airport, February now officially ranks as the snowiest on record, with 20.2 inches. And it came in as the third-coldest since records began in the late 1940s. That’s based on the average daily temperature, which came in at 36.6 degrees for February 2019.

In 1989, the average of daily temperatures for February was the second-coldest at 35.9 degrees. And the coldest ever registered was in 1956: 35.6 degrees.

“So every 30 years roughly, we seem to have gotten to these really cold temperatures,” Mass notes. But he says meteorologically speaking, the differences between the lowest average temperatures are small and there are other factors to take into account.

“This year actually should have been colder than it came out, because we have all that urbanization around SeaTac Airport – you know, it’s not a level playing field,” he says. “If you go back to 1949, you had the airport and not much else around, it was pretty much a rural place.”

He says the development around the airport causes warming.

“So the fact we were even in the neighborhood of those previous temperatures showed how cold it was this year.”

Mass notes other areas charted records as well, particularly in eastern Washington.


Along with the cold, relative low humidity numbers have been down in the region, especially over the past few days, causing many people to notice the effects of dry air around them. Mass says this is the result of cold, relatively dry air entering the state in eastern Washington and that then sank and warmed a bit crossing the Cascade Mountains into western Washington.  

“And that caused the relative humidities to plummet,” Mass said, “getting down outside to 20-30 percent.” He says that’s extremely dry – the driest we have had all winter.

“And I know I noticed that on my skin,” Mass said. “And when I’m talking I can feel the dryness. So it was very, very dry.”

And he expects the dry conditions to continue with the high pressure and lower than normal temps over the next several days.

“I don’t see a break until we get sometime later in the week,” he said.

To hear the full conversation, you can click on the "play" icon at the top of this post.

Weather with Cliff Mass airs at 9:02 a.m. Friday, right after BirdNote, and twice on Friday afternoons during All Things Considered. The feature is hosted by KNKX environment reporter Bellamy Pailthorp. Cliff Mass is a University of Washington professor of atmospheric sciences, a renowned Seattle weather prognosticator, anda popular weather blogger. You can also subscribe to podcasts of Weather with Cliff Mass shows, viaiTunes or Google Play.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to