White Christmas?

Sunday, December 23, 2012
10:46 P.M.

First off, let me apologize for not being more punctual when it comes to posting on this blog. I had three pretty rough finals in two days, and the evening after my last final, I had a seizure (which may have been related to the stress… who knows), so I’ve been trying to collect my thoughts and just relax my first week of break.

I feel no shame in telling people that I have epilepsy on this blog, and I honestly did the best I could on my finals. My medications to control epilepsy make abstract thinking and high-level cognition difficult, something which is kind of necessary for the high level science classes I am taking. So it’s taken me a little while to try and enjoy my break since the quarter ended, but I’m feeling a bit better now. Some successful businessman guy named Bo Bennett said that “frustration, although quite painful at times, is a very positive and essential part of success.” That will probably make more sense when I’m less frustrated.

It’s ok though. Because in the end…

I have some very positive news for you all. Parts of the region could see a White Christmas. Of course, forecasting snow here is pretty intimidating, particularly when I’m forecasting for kids who are in school. Thankfully, there’s no school on Christmas anyway, so the stakes are a little less high with this forecast. In addition, this is only forecast to be a minor snow event.

The National Weather Service released a Special Weather Statement for Western Washington highlighting the possibility of snow in places for Christmas Day. I’ve reprinted it below for your viewing convenience.

A PACIFIC FRONTAL SYSTEM IS EXPECTED TO IMPACT WESTERN WASHINGTON
ON CHRISTMAS DAY. THIS SYSTEM HAS THE POTENTIAL TO PRODUCE SNOW OR
A RAIN AND SNOW MIX ON THE LOWLANDS AS WELL AS MORE SNOW IN THE
MOUNTAINS ON CHRISTMAS DAY.

THE PRECIPITATION WILL PROBABLY START OFF AS A RAIN AND SNOW MIX
ON THE COAST DURING THE EARLY MORNING HOURS OF CHRISTMAS AND SNOW
ON THE INTERIOR LOWLANDS CHRISTMAS DAY. SOME INTERIOR LOCATIONS
MAY SEE A RAIN AND SNOW MIX TO START AS WELL.

AS WARMER AIR MOVES INLAND DURING THE DAY...EXPECT THE SNOW TO CHANGE
OVER TO RAIN. SNOW LEVELS MAY BEGIN AROUND 500 FEET AND RISE TO
1000 FEET OR MORE LATER IN THE DAY. ONE OR TWO INCHES OF SNOW
ACCUMULATION IS POSSIBLE IN HIGHER ELEVATIONS PRIOR TO THE
PRECIPITATION TURNING TO RAIN.

A white Christmas is defined as having one inch or more of snow on the ground. December 25, 2008 had around half a foot of slush at my house, so it technically counts as a White Christmas, but it was a pretty sloppy one. I still remember December 26, 1996, when we had a White Day-After-Christmas. It was incredible. The snow was almost as tall as me. As I grew older, I got the whole memory mixed up, and thought that it had actually snowed on Christmas Day. I remember not being surprised waking up to all the snow, because in my mind, it was supposed to snow on Christmas. That’s just the way things were. “Tide goes in, tide goes out. You can’t explain that.” (Bill O’Reilly). And you can’t explain snow falling on Christmas Day. It just happens.

Of course, I’ve grown to recognize over the years that Christmas Day is usually rainy, not snowy. There is less than a 10% chance of having a White Christmas on any given year.

So what’s my outlook for snow chances in the lowlands? Some places with elevation and away from water may see some snow to start, but it will not accumulate and it will change to rain pretty quickly. I live down by Lake Washington, so I’ll see all rain. The lowland spot with the best chance of getting some snow is Hood Canal. As has happened in recent weeks, cold air has a harder time being flushed out by storm systems in the Hood Canal area, and snow often occurs there even when there is a chilly rain throughout the rest of Western Washington. Let’s take a look at the UW WRF-GFS model to get a better idea of what we are dealing with.

Valid 04:00 pm PST Tue, 25 Dec 2012 – 48hr Fcst – UW 00z 4km WRF-GFS Western Washington 24-hour snowfall
As you can see, the only accumulating snow that will fall on the lowlands on Christmas is in the Hood Canal region. Places like Hoodsport, Potlatch, and Skykomish could see anywhere from 3-6 inches of snow, with lower amounts near the water and much higher amounts as you go closer to the Olympics. The snow doesn’t quite make it to Olympia.
The Cascades will definitely get some snow. I, for one, am dying to get back on the slopes, and I hope to do so after Christmas. I haven’t skied in two years though, so there is a decent chance I will fall flat on my face more than a couple times. I’ll just get back up and show that mountain who’s boss. That’s how we grow.
Merry Christmas!
Charlie
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