Tag Archives: Cliff Mass

New Radar to Enhance Weather Forecasting in Washington

Washington Dual Polarization Doppler Radar

New radar showing yesterday's rain storm.

Meteorologist Cliff Mass has released some of the first images coming from the new dual polarization Doppler radar recently installed on Washington’s coast. These new images dramatically demonstrate how this new radar will help forecasters better predict storms. The radar is set to go live next month and thanks to Cliff Mass, we are getting a sneak peak at the effectiveness of this new tool.

While this is good news for meteorologists, it is great news for skiers. For those following along here, you might already know that I’m a bit of a weather junky. In our household we don’t talk about weather as a substitute for real conversation. Weather is real conversation. In the ski industry, we are snow farmers, watching the forecast models with an obsessive eye.

Seattle Radar

Camano image does not pick up the moisture on the southern coast

Unlike the models, the radar is in realtime, tracking the moisture as it approaches from the coast. In the past, we had just two radars gathering information–one on Camano Island and the other in Portland. The Olympics blocked much of the moisture, consistently casting the area near Crystal Mountain in a sort of shadow. That was the fault of what Senator Cantwell termed the “weather gap” that she has now solved by getting this new radar.

Unlike most radars in use today, this new one uses dual polarization, which means it looks not only horizontally but also vertically into the approaching storms.

Portland Radar

The image from Portland is entirely blocked from the incoming moisture

This winter, it will be much easier for meteorologists, as well as the junior forecasters many modern skiers have become, to track incoming storms. This will be essential in remembering to show signs and symptoms of that horrible flu that’s going around, so you can call in sick when the powder flies.

Incoming: Winter Storm


Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it. 

In the ski industry, talk about the weather is more than just idle chit-chat.  Like farmers, we keep an eye to the sky and a hand on our “almanac”–a.k.a. the forecast models.  This year the long-term forecast is calling for a La Nina weather pattern.  Skiers in the Northwest like La Nina–it portends more and bigger snow storms. 

The storm pattern we look for is a high pressure system off the coast toward Hawaii and a low pressure system over the Gulf of Alaska.  This clocks the moisture from Alaska and the cold temperatures from the north towards Washington State.  It’s a beautiful thing to see that pattern set up. 

I watch the GFS and NAM forecast models, which can be found at:  http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~ovens/loops/, and right now “the pattern”, as we call it in our household, is shaping up.  Over at Cliff Mass’s weather blog http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/, he forecasts a series of storms hitting the Washington coast this weekend, with big waves and high winds. 

Of course that system will also hit the mountains in the form of snow.  How much and how low we don’t quite know yet, but up at Crystal Mountain, we’re ready.