Monday, November 29, 2010

A Few Notes on Washington's Early Winter Weather

Sam enjoys the eastern Washington snow

While the snow and cold air has been scoured out of the low lands of western Washington, eastern Washington remains cold. Once the cold air settles into the inter mountain basin of eastern Washington it takes a more vigorous push of mild Pacific air to scour out the cold air. So for the time being eastern Washington will remain snowy. The Kennewick area got nearly 10 inches of snow last week and no melting yet with more snow on and off this week with occasional freezing rain from warmer air riding over top of the cold air in the basin. To the north in Spokane, it could be a snowy week as well.  This trend will continue as long as the arriving storms off the Pacific Ocean remain on the cool side and do not generate much wind as they cross the Columbia Basin. The east side of the Cascade Range experiences much more winter weather than the brief spells the more marine west side gets. 

I enjoy observing how snow interacts with surfaces and made a couple of minor observations during our brief winter weather in western Washington. The initial snow in Bellingham arrived before the ground was frozen. The pattern of snow on this patio suggests that the metal patio furniture acted as a heat transfer and the cement froze faster adjacent to where the furniture touched the ground surface. 

This pattern of the initial snow melting and forming a layer of hard ice is a common feature of snow in western Washington lowland areas. It is more than people not knowing how to drive on icy roads - the roads are really icy. Throw in steep drumlin hills or steep sided anticlines and driving gets tough.

This image is a view of our neighbors roof. The clumps of snow angling across the roof are the inverted tracks of a squirrel. The squirrel had run crossed the snowy roof several times leaving tracks in the snow. The compressed snow stayed on the roof when the wind blew nearly all the loose non packed snow off the roof.  

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