Record storm may not get a name, but Puget Sound is more than ready for ‘extraordinary’ warmth | KNKX

Record storm may not get a name, but Puget Sound is more than ready for ‘extraordinary’ warmth

Mar 15, 2019

Some folks in the greater Puget Sound region have still been watching the last bits of snow melt in their yards, after record cold hit the region last month.

But it will all be gone for sure this weekend, as KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says a radical change is underway.

“We are in a different world now,” said Mass on Friday morning. “The atmospheric circulation has reconfigured itself. And so we’re going into a much, much warmer pattern.”

Mass predicts temperatures will zoom up into the upper 60s over the weekend, even hitting the lower 70s for some people early next week.

He says Friday will be a transition day with high clouds and temperatures reaching the mid- to upper 50s. “But as we get into the weekend, we expect warming,” he says.

Saturday will be slightly warmer – into the lower 60s – with partly cloudy skies and possibly some sprinkles on the coast, but otherwise dry.

Then, on Sunday, Mass says a ridge of high pressure is going to start really revving up.

“So: mid-60s for sure on Sunday and we’ll have sunny skies — a really nice day — no chance of rain,” he says.

Then, the big transformation happens on Monday and Tuesday.

EXTRAORDINARY WARMTH

“High pressure builds to the east of us. We start getting offshore flow and that brings air that sinks and warms on the Cascades," Mass says. "And temperatures will certainly get into the upper 60s for many folks away from the water. And I believe there will even be a few low 70s on both Monday and Tuesday.” 

He says Tuesday looks like it will be the warmest day. “It’s going to be extraordinary,” he says.

Clouds will likely come back on Wednesday and Thursday, as an upper-level trough of low pressure approaches, bringing back possible rain and more typical temperatures for this time of year.

TO NAME OR NOT TO NAME?

With the record cold of February fresh in mind, KNKX listener Kay-Ellen Tomlinson wrote in to ask about naming conventions for winter storms. She notes that the Weather Channel has a sequence of names for these mid-latitude events that touch the Pacific Northwest, including the one that brought all of our snow, which they call Maya. But other outlets don’t.

Mass confirms that only the Weather Channel consistently names mid-latitude storms.  

“They do that for a variety of reasons," Mass says. "I think some of it is PR and a way to sort of hype the storms and get people to watch.” 

Generally the National Weather Service doesn’t do that, it only names tropical storms and hurricanes, which tend to have bigger impacts, such as Hurricane Katrina. The weather service’s official naming conventions go all the way back to the 1800s.  

But there have been some notable exceptions to their rule about Pacific winter storms, Mass says, including some of the biggest wind storms that have hit here.

“And normally it’s not after people, but after dates,” as we look back on their impact.

These include the Columbus Day Storm of 1962, the Inauguration Day Storm in 1993 and the Chanukah Eve Storm of 2006. And they are all considered catastrophic enough that the National Weather Service also names them. But an event like the one the Weather Channel calls winter storm Maya does not rise to that level.

Mass says the Weather Channel is a private sector business that likes to use names to hype the storms and get people more interested in them.

“The Weather Service, they’re not in the business, so they don’t worry about it," Mass says. "They only name the storms that have really gotten people’s attention and storms that people will remember for many decades.” 

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.