Cliff Mass: You’ll tell your grandchildren about the record-breaking winter of 2019 | KNKX

Cliff Mass: You’ll tell your grandchildren about the record-breaking winter of 2019

Feb 15, 2019

Temperatures will hover above freezing for the next few days, allowing accumulated snow and slush to slowly melt in western Washington.

KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says air that’s cold enough to bring more snow will soon be back. It’s still unclear whether that will actually materialize. But either way, Mass is predicting this February will go down as the coldest on record.

In any case, he says this weekend will provide a break from icy temps and snow.

WARMER THIS WEEKEND

“We have a pretty benign forecast the next few days,” he says, starting with highs reaching the lower 40s and showers in places, especially in the southern part of the state. Most people will see partly cloudy skies and not much rain on Friday.

Saturday will be showery as well, especially in the morning, with temps getting to around 41.

But Sunday will be the best day.

“That’ll be partly cloudy to even sunny,” Mass said, with highs up to 43 or 44 in the lowlands.  

Temps that high will likely feel like a huge break to many folks in the region. Western Washington is just beginning to emerge from a week of record-breaking snowfall that totaled nearly two feet in many places. It shut down schools and other activities and immobilized all but the most intrepid drivers.

COLD AGAIN NEXT WEEK

Mass says weather forecast models for next week shows cold air pushing back into the region on Sunday and Monday.

“It’s going to get colder aloft, so we’re going to slide back into cooler air, temperatures probably not getting much above the upper 30s,” he says.  “And we’re going to be locked into this cooler air at least through the end of the week.”

Mass says we’re already much cooler than normal. Typically, temperatures would be in the 50s at this time of year – so we’ve been at least ten degrees beneath the norm.

“It’s really been a cool period and it looks like it’s going to be cool through the end of the month,” he says.

BUT WILL IT SNOW?

Mass says there is potential for snow after the weekend, but at this point, the forecast is full of uncertainty. Looking at a range or "ensemble" of forecasts, he gets mixed messages.

“Some of them are suggesting the potential for some light snow on Wednesday; another one next weekend,” he says. “But it’s so far out that I really have very little confidence.”

He says he’s certain there will be a cool period next week, but he’s not ready to call a snow storm at this point, especially because it’s late winter in the Pacific Northwest.

“Once you get past the third week in February, the chance of real snow here in the lowlands really drops,” he says.

“The sun’s getting very much stronger, the days are getting longer and the chances of snow really decline.”

A RECORD-SETTING WINTER  

Whether it snows again or not, Mass says this winter will go down as one of the most unusual we’ve ever seen.

“People will be talking to their grandchildren about this. They won’t believe the winter of 2019,” he said.

Among the major records already set: 20.2 inches so far in February at Sea-Tac Airport. The prior record was just 14 inches.

“That’s a big record,” says Mass, adding that the measurements go all the way back to the 1940s.

And on Tuesday, Snoqualmie Pass broke the all-time record snowfall for one day. It got 31.4 inches of snow.  

But Mass says an even bigger record is yet to come. He expects this month to be the coldest February ever registered at Sea-Tac Airport.

Even though it’s only half way through the month, Mass is confident this will happen, based on the weather so far and what he sees in the forecasts for the coming weeks.

“We’re certainly going to be in the top five,” he says. “This is an extremely cold month. It’s very, very unusual.”

Another remarkable aspect of the snowstorms of the past week? The relative skill of the forecasts, says Mass.

“I’m not just saying this to pat myself or other meteorologists on the back,” he says.

He notes that the predictions of how much snow was coming, where and when were remarkably accurate. And that’s a big change from just two decades ago.

“If you go back to the 1990s or 1980s, we go these events completely wrong. We missed some entirely," Mass said. "And this one, we got most of the snow events, we got the range of snow correctly and even the onset times. It just shows you how much the technology has improved."

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, and a popular weather blogger. You can also subscribe to podcasts of Weather with Cliff Mass shows, via iTunes or Google Play.