Another Weird and Wild Winter in the West?

Sunset, November 1991 | Go to article overview

Another Weird and Wild Winter in the West?


NOVEMBER WAS ONCE A MONTH IN which the West as it moved toward winter could count on a few climatic certainties. Seattle and Portland residents zipped anoraks in preparation for five months of wet but clement weather. San Franciscans battened down the hatches for the first of those blustery rainstorms that were hell on eucalyptus limbs but heaven to municipal water districts. And Southern Californians said good riddance to autumn's combustive Santa Ana winds and welcomed the rain that colored their umber hills Christmas green.

You may have noticed that, lately, our weather has not been obeying the rules.

A year ago this month, Seattle was drenched by a rainstorm so ferocious the Lake Washington bridge sank. November floods were followed by December's freeze: a week-long blast of Arctic cold that turned Yakima into the Yukon, Portland into Point Barrow, and then descended Hun-like into California to burst pipes and ravage gardens from Petaluma to Pasadena.

Naive Californians hoped the cold might be accompanied by precipitation to end their five-year drought. But January was dry, February was dry, and it wasn't until March that late-season rains ameliorated the situation from desperate to merely dire.

This year we have a roused Philippine volcano. We may have El Nino. We have uncertainty. But the West also has some of the world's leading institutions of climate study. On these pages, we report on what they know and don't know about our weather, then show you how you can hone your own weather eye with a home weather station.

PACIFIC OVERTURES

Take a late-afternoon walk to Point Loma or Point Reyes or Cannon Beach or Cape Flattery. Look west.

There, beyond the breakers in the 64 million square miles of Pacific Ocean, is where most of our weather incubates.

The prime mover behind all of it can be seen sinking toward the horizon. As the sun heats the Earth, continents and oceans warm unequally, which means that the atmosphere develops hot and cold areas. "And because the atmosphere likes to sustain equilibrium," explains Michael Pechner, a private meteorologist who consults for San Francisco's KCBS radio, "these hot and cold areas are constantly moving. That creates weather."

For the West, the prevailing weather pattern is from west to east, as Pacific-born storms travel eastward on the jet stream, a band of high-speed winds 30,000 to 40,000 feet above the planet's surface. In summer, the jet stream and storms stay north; in winter, they drop south, bringing winter snow and rain.

THE PINEAPPLE EXPRESS RUNS INTO A SNOWBANK

There are regional idiosyncrasies, of course--enough to keep local forecasters on their toes. Seattle's winter precipitation is dependable--on average, 5.6 inches of rain this month, 6.33 inches in December. But Puget Sound is an occasional stop on the "Pineapple Express," a flow of warm, moist air that begins near Hawaii. On board the express last year were Seattle's November floods. The city's freezing, blizzardy December was the product of another interloper. "Cold air came straight down from Canada and combined with moisture flowing into Puget Sound," explains Patrick Brandow of the National Weather Service office in Seattle. He adds, "Snow is the most difficult thing to forecast around here. It happens only once or twice as season, and the ingredients have to be just right."

Snowfall is likewise unpredictable along Colorado's Front Range. Says Colorado weather consultant Richard Medenwaldt, "What happens is we get cold air flowing down from Canada, pooling against the Rockies, forming a dam. Then a little innocuous storm comes in from the West, meets that cold air, and turns into something significant that puts down a foot of snow in Denver."

SCANNING THE OCEANS, SPYING

ON THE WINDS

In some ways, forecasters in the West have a more difficult time than do prognosticators elsewhere. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Another Weird and Wild Winter in the West?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.