Category Archives: Long Range Thoughts

After several off notes in January, February may sing a different tune

If the month of January were trying out for “American Weather Idol,” I have a feeling Simon Cowell would not have let it go through to the next round. In fact, January has, by and large, left the Cascade and Olympic snowpacks between 45 and 65 percent of normal.

But the next contestant for American Weather Idol is February and, at least according to current long range trends, this month will likely be singing a different (and lovelier) tune:

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The latest long range forecast from the Climate Prediction Center is showing a 40% chance of below normal temperatures in the next two weeks with near normal precipitation, which almost always translates to snow at high elevations (and sometimes lower elevations) this time of year.

So what is causing this dramatic shift in weather patterns?

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We had a massive ridge of high pressure over our region for weeks on end, pushing the jet stream far to our north into B.C. That ridge is slowly disintegrating, and a series of fairly rigorous and cold low pressure systems look to plow into our region, making for a much soggier weather pattern.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the east coast will catch a break, however. Much of the northern U.S. will be caught in a pretty chilly and moist weather pattern through at least the middle of February.

Will we see any lowland snow before winter is over? That’s a tough call, but if the long range forecasts have any clout, we should at least see some snowflakes in the air before spring has sprung.

Have a great day,

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap

Questions? Comments? Photos? E-mail Matt Leach at:

Winter Outlook 2013-2014: Another “wild card” year

Christmas Day Snow, 2012 in Seabeck. Photo by Don Geidel
Christmas Day Snow, 2012 in Seabeck. Photo by Don Geidel

Alright, I have put this off long enough! Time to do my yearly ritual of witchcraft–erm, I mean, long range forecasting.

Let’s make this clear from the beginning: There are many variables to consider when making a forecast that extends months into the future; weather forecasters struggle enough to get tomorrow’s forecast right. Among the most popular ways to determine long term trends are ocean temperatures, which can play a significant role in what kinds of land temperatures and precipitation will be most prominent during a given season.

At the present, the north Pacific Ocean is in a cold phase, which has correlated to cooler, more active weather for the West in the past, but isn’t necessarily a determining factor.

In addition, the equatorial Pacific can give us an even clearer look into general seasonal weather patterns, from the development of an El Nino event, which leads to warmer and drier conditions for the Pacific Northwest, or a La Nina pattern, which brings colder and wetter weather. Unfortunately, neither of those patterns will be able to help in this year’s forecast because we are witnessing the rise of what is unofficially known as La Nada. That’s right: no warm signals and certainly no cold signals. It’s no wonder meteorologist call this pattern a “wild card”.


Let’s revisit what analogs are and why they might be useful in constructing a forecast.

Analogs are past years that exhibit some similar weather activity to the current year, and as a result weather forecasters try to match up the past with the present to see if there’s some type of correlation or pattern occurring. More often than not it’s just a guide, but sometimes history does repeat itself.

Other reliable pieces of data essential for producing a long range forecast is the ONI, or Oceanic Nino Index to track what El Nino, La Nina or neutral years in the past match up similarly to the present day. The records I have go all the way back to 1950. Solar activity can be another major factor to the weather over the years, but I haven’t weighted that heavily enough in my forecast mainly because of the lack of data. Lastly, I used the PDO readings (Pacific Decadal Oscillation) to finalize my findings.

Here are some of the top corresponding years:

2012 (interestingly enough)



If any of you remember the winters of 2012-2013, 1990-1991 or 1978-1979, you will recall that there’s a healthy mix of benign weather  (dry, mild, no snow) and awesome weather (arctic intrusions, buckets of snow). As it so happens, that’s probably the best description of what to expect this winter.

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There are some strong signals indicating December will, once again, provide us with some of the best opportunities for some chilly weather, but perhaps not the most ideal for snow. The reemergence of a pretty healthy ridge will limit the amount of precipitation we receive, but not for long. After a generally pleasant beginning to the month, there are signs that the jet stream will gradually begin to sag south and west, bringing in a decent shot of cold and moist weather. Could this result in a repeat of last years white Christmas event? The chances are, of course, very low, but it looks like we could at least be heading in the right direction. Temperatures will average a couple degrees below normal with precipitation right around average, if not a little below.


January, as a whole, looks downright chilly for most of the country, with very little in the way of temperature fluctuations. An active jet stream and negative PNA (Pacific/North American teleconnection pattern) should also increase the mount of storminess on the West Coast with plenty of mountain snow and several shots at lowland snow. This doesn’t look like a pattern conducive to too many “Pineapple Express” systems, however, so precipitation likely won’t exceed average by much if at all. The coldest and stormiest periods will be between the 1st and the 15th with a gradual change for the drier by the end of the month.


February, as has been typical in the Northwest for quite some time, will be drier than normal, but this time with a twist: It also looks a bit chillier than normal. This will be primarily due to cold overnight low temperatures, as most daytime temperatures should average at or slightly above normal. The most active weather will be found further east as the PNA shifts to a positive phase and the North Atlantic Oscillation, or NAO, takes a plunge. However, it looks like we could run into a few “overrunning” events along the Hood Canal as we switch to some milder weather towards the end of the month.

MARCH 2014

After a chilly start, we’ll likely see fairly tranquil conditions be the dominant feature through March with below normal precipitation. In fact, we could see some record high temperatures towards the end of the month.

So there you have it! A pretty cold and active beginning to winter with a gradual change to milder and drier weather. We’ll check back in once spring rolls around to see how I did.

Have a great weekend, and stay warm!

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap

Questions? Comments? Photos? E-mail Matt Leach at:


Happy summer!…well, meteorological summer

June has started off on a mild and sunnier-than-normal note, with high temperatures soaring into the low 70s. It felt even warmer due to the fact we’ve been sitting a good 10 to 15 degrees below or seasonal average.

The first day of summer officially starts on Friday, June 21st, but meteorologists…ahem…don’t really care about the sun’s position and what solstice is what or what equinox is what. Maybe it’s because I already have a bias, but the meteorological understanding of seasons just makes a little more sense, hence the “logical” part of the word 😉

Meteorologists define seasons more by temperature and weather. Warm–or even downright hot–weather occurs before the first official day of summer every year. Our nation begins to experience its warmest temperatures by late May/early June, so to make it easy, meteorologists dubbed meteorological summer as June 1st.

September 1st is meteorological autumn (fall), as temperatures overall begin to take a downward trend and may northern states experience their first frosts.

December 1st is meteorological winter, as temperatures and weather have long expressed their snowy and cold attitudes by then.

March 1st is meteorological spring, because by this point most temperatures begin trending upward.

This makes it easy for all of us. You don’t need to check the calendar as often to know which season it is! But I suppose for the sake of most of the world, we’ll keep things the way they are 🙂 For more information on these seasonal variations, click here.

You’ll be glad to know that even though the first official day of summer isn’t for another few weeks, Mother Nature will play along with the notion it actually started today. Therefore, expect morning clouds Sunday and Monday with clearing skies and high temperatures in the low to mid 70s.

We warm even more for Tuesday and Wednesday as a ridge of high pressure continues to build offshore. This will fling temperatures into the mid to upper 70s…maybe even–dare I say it–80 degrees!

We cool off a little by the end of next week, but the ridge rebuilds by next weekend bringing more sunshine and mild temperatures along with it. Yay for meteorological summer! 🙂

Have a fantastic weekend,

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap

Questions? Comments? Photos? E-mail me at:


Any outdoor weekend plans? You might be in luck

What a wet Wednesday morning! Luckily things have begun to taper off, but not without achieving an impressive .25” of rain in the past 12 hours.

By the time March rolls around, we start to say things like, “Well, surely the snow can’t stick around much longer. Winter is nearly at its end!” And then after a few more bouts with snow, especially in and around the convergence zone, we tell ourselves, “This is the last one. I’m sure of it!” Of course, by April snow is a thing of history.

We’re sort of experiencing that same attitude here with cold, rainy days. Surely it will end soon, right?

April and May are the transition months from relentless rain to glorious Northwest sun. In fact, our summers are typically very dry in comparison to our winters. July averages only 0.86” of rain, which is less than we’ve experienced in the past 3 days! With that said, today will be the last real soaker in a while.

Forecasting models have been fighting over whether we’ll experience periods of troughing through the weekend (cooler weather with sprinkles) or ridging (warmer weather with sunshine). Either way, after Thursday it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing much in the way of any rain.

Therefore, after Thursdays showers and sunbreaks, expect partly to mostly sunny skies from Friday through the weekend and into next week. Morning clouds and drizzle will definitely be a consistent pattern, but with the afternoon clearing high temperatures should manage to climb into the upper 60s to low 70s. This should make the upcoming weekend the nicest we’ve seen in at least two weeks!

In fact, the long range forecast models indicate we won’t be seeing much in the way of steady rain for several more weeks. This certainly makes sense, because just as March and April feature less and less in the way of snow showers, June and July feature less and less in the way of rain showers.

Stay tuned for Saturday’s blog post, which will discuss what “meteorological summer” is all about.

Have a great day!

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap

Questions? Comments? Photos? E-mail me at:


7 days, 70 degrees


We don’t have to dig too far in our long term memory to remember Easter weekend’s fantastic string of weather. Sunny weather and highs in the mid to upper 60s graced the region from the 29th to the 31st of March, with some areas reaching 70.

But for some of us, just barely hitting 70 degrees isn’t good enough. So why don’t we crank it up a notch?

First of all, a growing ridge of high pressure is building over the west coast, resulting in warmer weather and drier conditions over the next 6-10 days. In fact, there’s about a 50% chance of having warmer than average temperatures by this time next week. But the fun doesn’t end there. The 2 week projections look the same:

Indeed, it appears we may run through the rest of April with above normal temperatures. But just how much above normal could we get?

It’s not wise to take forecasting models too seriously, as they are prone to change quickly, but this time of year dramatic changes in a weeks time isn’t as common as it is in the winter. I think it’s fair to forecast, with relative certainty, two things:

  • In about 7 days, we’ll be seeing a lot more 70s popping up around the area under sunny skies
  • This string of 70 degree weather will likely last for a total of about 7 days before cooling off slightly to the upper 50s to mid 60s into early May.

This is the mid spring pattern Western Washington is famous for. It’s the kind of weather we call “perfect”. In the short term, we still have several cool-ish weather systems to trudge through, but it looks like once we get past the muck for a week, we’ll be on our way to near-perfection.

Until then, stay warm and dry out there!

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap

Questions? Comments? E-mail me at:


Nearly 50% of the nation still covered in snow

Although our little corner of the world has enjoyed nothing but sunny skies and unseasonably mild temperatures lately, many areas across our marvelous country can’t quite say the same.

In fact, according to a news release from, as of March 25th, nearly 50% of the nation was still covered in snow, which is a dramatic increase compared to this time last year:

It has no doubt been a stormy and somewhat snowy winter across much of the U.S., but not everyone expected it to turn out that way. I’m sure many of you remember the “El Nino scare of 2012,” when many of us (or maybe just me?) started to worry we wouldn’t have a lot of snow and would therefore be subject to drought conditions come summer time.

But the mountain snow pack report as of March 1st reveals there’s actually very little to worry about:

It also appears the water supply is right on track:

Then again, we also had a very different winter than most of Western Washington. Kitsap County experienced an anomalously snowy first half of winter, with some areas such as Seabeck and Cushman receiving as much as 30 inches of snow in December.

So disregarding our rather lame end to winter, it was a wet, snowy season over much of the country. And I guess at the end of the day, snow fell where it really mattered: In the mountains.

Have a great day,

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap

Questions? Comments? Photos? E-mail me at:


Long range forecast update: Getting drier, but cooler

The long-anticipated, long range forecast is here!

There are only so many ways to describe a rainy forecast, so you can imagine my excitement upon finding the long range predictions for the next 6-10 days look increasingly drier and cooler.

Then again, what does “drier” and “cooler” look like? Knowing March’s typical trends around here, it probably means cloudy skies, light rain and highs in the mid to upper 40s. But is that really good news?

In my weather discussion on the Kitsap Sun homepage today, I discussed how we are actually running a few inches behind in the precipitation department. We’ve only managed 7 inches of rain since January 1st, whereas we should be closer to 12. In fact, it appears we may actually make it three months in a row with below normal precipitation, according to the 8-14 day forecast:

So maybe not the worst news for those anticipating a break from the rain, but history shows Washingtonians get a little anxious after two weeks of below normal rainfall, let alone three months 😉

Have a wonderful day,

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap

Questions? Comments? E-mail me at:




Threatening shade of blue over Western Washington

**BREAKING NEWS: Bremerton Airport has done it! We are sitting at 52 degrees this Saturday afternoon, the first time breaking 50 degrees since November 6th, 2012**

If the above title sounds threatening and perhaps utterly disastrous, then I have done my job.

TV Weather personalities have received a fair amount of criticism by meteorologists for being drama kings and queens when it comes to the weather in general. But let’s be absolutely honest here: There’s not much drama that happens in a weatherman’s life, so how about we give them all a break.

With that being said, an ominous blue glob of…blueness is set to engulf the Western U.S. for the next 14 days. You don’t believe me? Then what is this?

6 to 10 Day Outlook - Temperature Probability

Great question! The above graphic is provided by the CPC, or Climate Prediction Center which is a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The CPC issues daily long range prognostications which highlight the likelihood of above, near, or below normal temperatures and precipitation for the 6-10 and 8-14 day periods. Orange/red= above average, blue= below average, and white=average, with darker shades of color signifying a higher probability.

So you can see that according to the CPC, the west coast, but most specifically Kitsap County, has a 40-50% chance of being under a chilly grip likely lasting until March. And how about precipitation? About a 40% chance of above normal rainfall:

Our historical average temperature is 50 degrees starting tomorrow, so if it’s any consolation, below normal temperatures in February are much more tolerable than, say, below normal temperatures in December.

Does the long range forecast include any chances of snow? Well, I certainly can’t say it doesn’t and still consider myself an honest person. But I also wouldn’t want to say it does and freak everyone out. So…maybe 😉 All I can say is, it doesn’t appear our chances for more snow have completely ended.

In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your weekend and upcoming week. Precipitation will be showery in nature for the next five days with frequent sunbreaks, so that’s a plus!

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap

Questions? Comments? Photos? E-mail me at:


Weather Channel calls for the next 3 months to be “colder, to much colder than normal”

weather channel

I know, this is exactly what everyone wanted to hear! Now, those who know me understand I don’t like national weather companies, but the Weather Channel is pretty good overall (this does not mean you should bookmark their weather page for your forecasts! That’s why I’m here ;)) and seemed to do a good job predicting the overall weather pattern for our neck of the woods thus far.

So what do they have to say about the February-April time frame? Well, the video is kind of funny in that they talk about the upcoming late winter/early spring pattern as if the Western US doesn’t exist at all, but…well, we should be used to that 😉

Click here to watch The Weather Channel’s long range forecast (February-April)


Did anyone notice how they started out saying the jet stream would sag for the eastern half of the nation and it showed “warm” temperatures for the West next month, yet they produced a second map showing we would actually average colder than normal for February?

february contradiction

Not sure what that is all about, but with the jet stream acting that way there’s one thing we can be sure of: We’re in for a lot more dry weather.

Not too surprisingly, they are calling for a colder than normal March and a MUCH colder than normal April. Yeah, that El Nino kind of bombed…big time.

My thoughts generally coincide with the Weather Channel’s, although I am noticing strong indications of a warmer and drier than normal February. We’ll see.

Also, if you haven’t noticed, we’re back to playing the rain game after a cold intermission of clouds and fog. However, I’m keeping my eye on midweek. Could see some wet snow in a few Kitsap locations if everything lines up just right. Looking on the bright side, this weather pattern will help clear out the stagnant air 🙂

Have a great evening, everybody!

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap

Questions? Comments? E-mail me at:


Get ready for some heavy rain and colder temperatures

chance of snow

In the weather world, 2013 has started off slow and seasonable. Latest weather models indicate that may not be the case much longer as we dive deeper into January. Remember when we talked about the implications of a neutral weather year (ie no La Nina or El Nino pattern)? This winter has lived up to its “wildcard” name, and it will continue to drag surprises under our feet from time to time.

There are several weather systems to keep an eye on, the first being tomorrow afternoon. Moderate, steady rain and warmer temperatures will move into the area around 1-2 pm tomorrow and last most of the night. Most areas around the peninsula will add up to anywhere from 0.30”-0.65” of rain by Monday morning. The flow switches westerly throughout the day Monday signaling a small rain shadow for large portions of the Kitsap peninsula.


Tuesday will be the day to watch in terms of precipitation. Locally heavy rain (most especially along the Hood Canal) will spread into the area early Tuesday and persist much of the day. How heavy? Hood Canal communities may come away with anywhere from 2-4” of rain before the event is over. Models are also hinting at some strong wind as well, although this will need to be monitored before more stock is put into how much wind and where. Temperatures will be seasonable, reaching the mid 40s.


Yes the rumors are true: we will be getting a little colder around here. However, nothing at this point is looking really impressive. Latest forecast models show little precipitation in the Wednesday-Saturday time frame with temperatures dropping into the 30s and lower 40s with overnight lows in the upper 20s/lower 30s.

So yes, it will be getting colder, but so far it doesn’t appear we’ll rival late December’s snow or cold temperatures. Right now it would be safe to bet on a few rain/snow showers late Wednesday night through next weekend, with an increased chance of sticking snow along the Hood Canal Friday/Saturday. Again, temperatures will still be marginal and we lose a lot of moisture, but the potential is there.


Although this upcoming week/weekend doesn’t look too prime for any dramatic snow or cold events, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing in the future to keep an eye on. Longer range forecast models (6-14 days out) have consistently suggested a colder, but drier weather pattern to take hold by week 3 of this month. While still too early to discuss details, consistency in the general theme of entering a fairly cold pattern in mid January has been impressive.

As always, I’ll keep my eye on these storms for you. In the meantime, be prepared for the next 72 hours to feature wet and potentially windy weather around here.

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap

Questions? Comments? E-mail me at:


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