Weather with Cliff Mass
9:15 am
Fri December 23, 2011

Rain, rain and more in the forecast - but, embrace the weather and you'll be fine

"It was like Palm Springs around much of the Northwest" recently, says KPLU's weather man, Cliff Mass. But that will be shifting soon. 

"Unfortunately, we're about to make a major shift into a much rainier pattern - a much more normal pattern."

The 3-day Forecast

Today: clouds and a few light showers, nothing much to talk about. 

Tomorrow: we'll start off with another weak weather system coming through - a little bit stronger than the ones in the past, so we'll have some showers tonight and into the morning. And then it'll open up and there'll be some clouds, but not much rain on Saturday.

Sunday: especially during the afternoon a much stronger system comes in. The winds will pick up, we'll get some rain. ...so, he says "Sunday will feel normal" with temperatures back up into the 40s with cloudy and rainy skies.

Extended Forecast: stormy, windy weather

Mass says, the whole pattern will change in the week ahead.

"We had a ridge over the eastern pacific, high pressure that basically shunted everything to the north. And we were left with cold conditions - a little bit of clouds in the morning and some sun in the afternoon. But now, the jetstream is going to be coming right into us.

"Zonal Flow" 

That's the term for the system that is at the root of the change, says Mass.

"A jet stream with winds of 110 to 170 mph will be directed in on us and causing one disturbance after the other will move right into the Northwest." And he predicts that will be true at least for the next week."

Weather 101: "Surface Data Revolution"

Cliff has some intriguing perspective on the weather and weather collection devices. He's been in the business several decades now - pretty much  since he was a kid and has seen the number of weather collections stations and  gadgets grow exponentially.

"This is because everybody and his mother has put out weather networks. Local air quality agencies, the local avalanche,the state department of transportation - you name it. Everybody's putting an observation station out there," Mass says.

And he adds, weather equipment has become relatively cheap. The Internet is allowing everybody to communicate their data in real time. He says now, even commercial airplanes have weather observation equipment on them - they collect measurements while they're flying and as they land, increasing greatly the accuracy of atmospheric science and predictions. Satellites too - are giving us more data than ever.

"It's like Star Trek!" Mass says

Even over the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there are weather stations feeding data into computer models, allowing us to see what's coming in at us.

"There was an old saying, that we couldn't forecast around here in the Northwest, because of the data void over the Pacific. That's no longer true."  

 This is a big shift from the days when people had to just "read the sky" by looking up at the clouds - as Mass describes it in his book from 2008, The Weather of the Pacific Northwest

Gift ideas for weather-gazers

That's a great gift item, by the way...as are weather stations and cloud maps, which Mass says are easy to get.

Gifts for weather lovers like him range from affordable to very expensive:

  • For the beginner who wants to add data: a simple rain gage or cloud chart ($10 range.)
  • Weather stations ranging from $50 - $200 or so; these connect to the Internet.
  • Cliff's book, The Weather of the Pacific Northwest (from $14 for a used copy, $20 new on Amazon.com) 

The weekly KPLU feature "Weather with Cliff Mass" airs every Friday at 9 a.m. immediately following BirdNote, and repeats twice on Friday afternoons during All Things Considered. The feature is hosted by KPLU’s Health and Science reporter Keith Seinfeld. Cliff Mass is a University of Washington Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and renowned Seattle weather prognosticator.You can also listen to a podcast of this and previous "Weather with Cliff Mass" shows.