Category Archives: Long Range Thoughts

Taking a look at Thanksgiving Day weather and beyond

I don’t imagine it’s too early to talk about Thanksgiving, is it? I mean, after all it is almost 9 days away. I am very excited to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family after two years of not celebrating it at all. South Africans are very gracious, thankful people, but for obvious reasons the Thanksgiving holiday isn’t really a priority for them 😉 In fact, Thanksgiving 2010 was spent in 115 degree weather with a horrible stomach flu. There’s a really funny story surrounding that experience, but now is not the time or place…

ANYWAY, with the holidays quickly approaching many of you are eager for some travel plans. “What will the mountain passes look like?” “Will we have to roast our turkey on an open fire because of an approaching windstorm that will knock out power to hundreds of thousands?” Whatever your questions may be, I have answers! Well, tentative answers 🙂

I would probably venture to guess most of you haven’t exactly needed a meteorologist (or aspiring meteorologist!) to give you the latest forecast. I mean, let’s be honest here: it’s November in western Washington! And with no significant windstorms or arctic outbreaks in our record books so far, many of you have either been happily or miserably bored.

What if I told you Thanksgiving Day will more than likely be rainy with highs in the mid to upper 40s? While the lowlands will be putting windshield wipers to work, those traveling over the mountain passes will have to put their snow chains to work! Periods of snow, heavy at times, will continue to fall in the Cascades between now and the Thanksgiving break. Temperatures will be fairly close to freezing, however, so most of what you encounter on the roadways, if you must travel to higher elevations, will be slush.

And then the trusty long range forecast! I’ll try to contain my enthusiasm, but let’s just say things look to be getting fairly chilly and moist towards the beginning of December. This is actually the first time this season I’ve seen any potential for lowland snow in the long range forecast, so if you happen to love a snowy scene right before Christmas, it may be coming!

In the meantime, try to make the best of the rain! It could always be worse 🙂

Have a great day everyone,

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap


Long Range Thoughts: Had enough yet?

It is downright cold outside today! Temperature gauges all across the peninsula are pulling some unseasonably cold readings for this time of year with 43 degrees and 0.10” in the rain gauge. Perfect chili weather if you ask me, but some of you are…gasp!…complaining about this weather!

One moment we’re all dying of thirst because of the “drought of the century”, and the next we’re scrambling to build our own arks! I understand the change in weather has been traumatic for some of you and I think that’s why Mother Nature is going to put the current weather pattern on repeat for the next couple weeks so we don’t suffer another major shock to the system 😉

But all jokes aside, the jet stream doesn’t look any weaker over the next 14 days. Temperatures will warm slightly, yes, but the fire hose is aimed right at us, providing one storm system after another access to the great Northwest and in turn, giving the mountains a nice, pre-season snow pack.

If you’d like an even more specific look inside the long range forecast, look no further than the 7 day forecast. Just take this weeks worth of weather and duplicate it. Aside from some scattered sunbreaks mid week and towards the weekend, expect mostly cloudy skies, showers, and highs in the 40s to low 50s through Sunday. Meanwhile, highs in the 20s with persistent snow is in the forecast for Stevens Pass!

All in all, yes a rather boring forecast all things considered, but let us all remember what life was like several weeks ago 😉

Have a great day!

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap

Questions? Comments? E-mail me at:

BOO!: A sneak peek Halloween forecast

Good afternoon, everyone! Hope you’ve had sufficient time to dry off because we have more storm systems and downright cold weather on tap after this short commercial break (meaning today ;)). Included in this forecast is some more mountain snow showers! In fact, take a look at this picture taken yesterday afternoon:

That’s right! Those are snowflakes falling at Stevens Pass. And sure enough, the forecast for the next week includes a chance for snow every day. So let’s hope this isn’t a bad omen for winter 😉

Now, with the weather behaving the way it has the past several days, I got curious and took a sneak peek at what the projected weather pattern will be like on Halloween. Of course we must remember it’s a long range forecast, but Halloween is becoming less and less long range as the days go by (imagine that!).

Needless to say, those little costumes portraying ghouls and goblins (or Justin Bieber if you live in Tacoma) may need to be covered with a little rain jacket. Luckily, the current forecast calls for a wet Halloween day, but a chilly, somewhat dry night. Bring the umbrella just in case, though 🙂

That’s a relief! I need an umbrella to match my weatherman costume, anyway! 😉

Stay warm and dry, folks!

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap

Questions? Comments? Ghoulish complaints? Send them my way at:

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‘El Nino’ weather conditions die, neutral conditions on the rise

Good afternoon!

Have you ever watched a great movie or television show and your favorite character gets killed off? You know it’s a movie, but in watching it you actually feel something for the characters involved. My brother-in-law and I were finishing some episodes of The Walking Dead on Netflix and a character I had grown to really like got…well…devoured by zombies. As infuriating as that was, I had to remind myself that it’s JUST a movie.

However, I woke up this morning to find a headline that kills off a character I didn’t care so much for: EL NINO. And luckily this time, we’re not in a movie. Although this weather pattern will likely resurrect at some point and devour every skier and snowboarder’s dreams of a winter wonderland like a flesh-eating zombie, at least for now we could be in the clear.

Sea Surface Temperatures have not been nice to the El Nino and now we are looking at a period of cooling taking the place of previous warming in the Pacific. Now, we are not headed towards a La Nina as of yet, but one thing looks for sure: El Nino will play a minimal role in our winter, if any.

This of course makes the winter forecast a lot more difficult to predict. Neutral winters are termed as “wildcard winters” and there is really no indication either way of what to expect throughout the winter. The plus side is, it doesn’t look likely we’ll stay in a persistent ridge and consequent drought for the next six months. If anything, there are signs this sunny weather pattern will break down towards the middle of the month.

For now, the current sea surface conditions have little to do with the weather pattern we’re experiencing now. I think for most of us, 70+ days of no precipitation is more than just an El Nino-ish signal, it’s the longest streak of dry weather we’ve had in at least 50 years. But with the El Nino dying and flattening out to neutral by month’s end, we should see more seasonable weather.

In the short term, the forecast remains the same. I feel like I’m forecasting weather in Southern California: “Mostly sunny…light winds…comfortable temperatures…” Truly, for the next 7-10 days there doesn’t appear to be any dramatic changes to the weather pattern.

This weekend will be slightly warmer and sunnier than first anticipated, but other than that the forecast remains largely unchanged. Expect partly sunny skies through next weekend.

Until then, let’s hope this character called “El Nino” in our weather series doesn’t resurrect any time too soon 😉 Have a great weekend, everyone!

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap

**Official ‘Forecasting Kitsap’ Fall 2012 forecast

This is a picture I took during the fall season in Franschhoek, South Africa. This is perhaps one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen!

Here it is! It’s taken me long enough, but I’m ready to release my official Fall 2012 forecast. I’ll issue my Winter 2012/2013 forecast in early December.

As always, before the forecast begins, there are a few things to remember. It’s only a matter of time before someone comments: “Meteorologists can’t even forecast 5 days out, what makes them think they can forecast 3 months out?” There is a clear difference between climatic averages and daily weather forecasting. One expounds on year to year averages (climatology) while the other predicts specifics usually no more than two weeks out (weather forecasters). Click here to read more about the difference.

In long range weather forecasting, some feel it is important to use analogs. 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.

So with all the above points in mind, let’s get our hands dirty with some more specific, technical information.

Although hardly the most reliable or trustworthy analogs, I have been tracking the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) over the past month to get an idea of what kinds of analogs they’ve been matching their daily long range forecast updates with. Over the past month I have noticed a few recurring years (from most common to least common):

  • 2002-2003
  • 1965-1966
  • 2006-2007
  • 1951-1952

Again, the CPC analogs change every day, but these years have proven the most consistent.





As explained a while back, the ONI tells me what years were El Nino (red), La Nina (blue) or neutral (plain). Of course, the higher the number the stronger the event. I took my 4 most frequent analog years (1951, 1965, 2002 and 2006) and compared their ONI readings with our ONI trend. Both the winters of 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 were La Nina years and we are currently sitting at neutral, so I went out to find some years with 2 back-to-back La Nina’s followed by a neutral/weakly positive El Nino year. These are the years I found

  • 1951-1952
  • 1965-1966 (this one wasn’t preceded by a back-to-back Nina, but otherwise the numbers match well)
  • 2006-2007 (similar story to 1965-1966)


The PDO is the surface temperatures of the Pacific, north of 20° N. We are currently in a sharply cool (or negative) phase and we’ve been that way for almost 2 1/2 years straight! This plays a big part in our weather, so I set out to see which of the above analogs matched our current PDO phase (FYI, the PDO number for August was -1.93!) Although none of the analogs matched up quite to this years negativity, the remaining analogs seemed close enough, especially 1951 which registered a -1.37 reading in August.


Whew! You’re still with me! Good for you! I hope you’ve learned as much as I have along the way. Long range forecasting is a fun, but tedious science. I consider myself a beginner, but the more I study and try my hand at long range forecasting, the better I expect to become. With that being said, my top 3 analogs for the Fall of 2012 in the Northwest is 1951, 1965 and 2006.

I have weighted my forecast heavily as a combination of those three years, although it obviously won’t play out as a carbon copy. These analogs just provide me with a credible basis. Also, just to note, the 1981-2010 temp/precip averages constitute what’s above, near or below average.

First off, here’s a composite map of my 3 main analogs.



So right off the bat, it looks like from October-December this year, we have a decent chance of averaging slightly above normal in the temperature department and near normal to slightly above normal in the precipitation department.

OCTOBER 2012- (Temperature Mean: 49°; 1° above average. Precipitation Average: 4.39”; 0.5” below average) Month Snow Chance: 0%

Contrary to a lot of fall forecasts out there, it just doesn’t look like the month for big temperature spreads or anomalies. Overall it looks like we’ll experience a much tamer and slightly warmer than normal October, on average. Expect the Cascades and Olympics to be seeing some snowfall this month as we could get several bouts with cold air, making the lowlands and the mountains chilly at times. Other than a few cold spurts, it’ll generally be a comfortable October, a month we usually have major wind or rain storms in.

NOVEMBER 2012- (Temperature Mean: 41.5°; 0.5° above average. Precipitation Average: 10.89”; 1.5” above average) Month Snow Chance: 40%

November will be our transition month. We’ll notice temperatures getting colder with many “first frosts” popping up around the peninsula. The most notable thing about November will be all the rain. Usually November is a wet month, but this year it’s projected to be quite wet. Temperatures will hover around normal for the month, but enough warmer, Pineapple Express-type rain storms could nudge the temperature up a tad. The jet stream will not have responded to the El Nino atmosphere quite yet, so expect a lot of cloudy, rainy days. The snow chance is up to 40%, meaning most of the month it will likely be too mild for snow, but we could have a few bouts of it towards the end of the month.

DECEMBER 2012- (Temperature Mean: 38°; 1° below average. Precipitation Average: 10.50”; 0.4” above average) Month Snow Chance: 80%

Even the research I’ve conducted corresponds well with a colder than average December. I’m not sure if I agree with the “much colder” than normal forecast put out by The Weather Channel, but either way it’ll be a chilly month. It’ll be drier than November, but still wetter than your average December. This will surely bode well for the mountains as well as lowland snow fans, as I see the very realistic potential for some arctic air intrusions/snow days during this month. It would be impossible to say how much, but with a forecast for above average precipitation, I’d say there’s a decent chance for SOME sticking snow.

*Left bar: temperatures; Right bar: precipitation

Well there you have it! It’s difficult and practically futile to predict any windstorms, snowstorms, ice storms, etc in these long range forecasts. All we need is a general idea of what it’s looking like all things considered. Of course there are other factors that play into our weather here, so it’ll be fun to check back and see how I did!

Please feel free to use the comment section below or shoot me an e-mail about what you see. Have a great day everyone!

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap

P.S. I’ll post the updated 7 day forecast later tonight 🙂

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Weather Channel calls for “much colder” than normal temperatures this fall

Hello everyone! I’ve been meaning to issue a fall forecast of my own for the past couple  weeks, but one thing has piled on another and I haven’t completed my draft! However, by Wednesday you’ll see the final results of what I am observing and what I think that will mean for you in the coming months.

In the mean time, I thought many of you would like to know the Weather Channel’s take on the situation since, after all, they are slightly more well known, credible and famous than myself 😉 But I’d sure like to duel it out with them when it comes to predicting Kitsap’s weather!

Ahem…where were we? Oh yes. The Weather Channel. In a news release just hours ago, Dr. Todd Crawford, Chief Meteorologist of Weather Services International (WSI), expounds on the ever declining El Nino and how it may actually play the opposite effect than first anticipated. This means much of the west could be caught in a chilly early season grip while the eastern states could bask in above to much above normal temperatures.

In fact, December is projected to average “much below normal” in the Northwest, much to the pleasure of skiers and snowboarders here! (By the way, “normal” is considered anything higher than the 1981-2010 historical average)

Take from this what you will. It IS a 3 month long range forecast after all:

(We’re having issues with the link, so you will have to copy and paste this into the address bar. Sorry for the inconvenience!)

As for us in the present day? Well…I don’t know how many ways I can present it to you without it sounds monotonous. 😉 The next 7 days looks pretty typical of late September: morning clouds, drizzle, partial clearing in the afternoon and highs reaching the upper 60s and lower 70s. This will be the case until about Thursday when a weak ridge of high pressure builds in and boosts temperatures up a notch into the low to mid 70s.

The long range is interesting, but I prefer to leave it at that. There are certainly signs for a pattern change once we enter October, but let’s not get too carried away 🙂

For now, enjoy what we have! Several forecasting agencies don’t seem to think it’ll last much longer 😉

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap

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Long Range Thoughts: Mild, sunny weather till the end of the month

Good afternoon, everyone!

A Forecasting Kitsap reader commented a week or so ago about whether the idea of seasons lagging from year to year is accurate. For instance, have you noticed the summer doesn’t really start until July? And for the past several years it hasn’t ended until late September? Or doesn’t it seem winter won’t really kick in until January and somehow extends until May? Of course I don’t have any scientific information to back the theory up, but somehow I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that we need to tweak our winter and summer solstice a bit, at least here in the Northwest.

This theory is ringing particularly true this year. Remember June? How could you not?! It was my first full month back from South Africa and I was shivering from head to toe. Now, it could partially be due to the reason I had just come back from South Africa, but still! It was a dark, wet month. Let’s now compare that to our current state. The temperature right now is 79 degrees! In fact, 12 days out of our 17 so far this month have registered with a high of 75 degrees or above. Then when you add the fact that roughly 85% of the days this month have featured clear skies, the jaws continue to drop.

So now let’s look into the crystal ball and see what’s in store. Are you loving this weather? If so, you are SO spoiled as Mother Nature has deaf ears to all pleas and cries of fall weather fans. Here’s a current look at the 6-10 day forecast from the CPC:

That massive red gob over the Northwest is not usually something snow fans want to see during the winter, although at this time of year we might as well use it up. The above map is color coated depending on % chance. So for instance, we have a 50% chance of registering above normal temperatures in the next 6-10 days. For those who are interested, the 8-14 day forecast, for what it’s worth, is the same.

The accuracy of the CPC has certainly  increased since I’ve been gone, so I’d bet good money this verifies. So what does that translate for us? Remember, just because the map says “50% chance of above normal temperatures” does not mean we’ll be exceeding 80 every day between now and October. In fact, our daily average high temperature drops every day, even if only a half of a degree. So realistically 80 degrees looks less and less likely each day. Also, these maps don’t tell you how much above average we could be.

With that in mind, latest numbers suggest we’ll eventually fall into the mid 70s through next week and cool down quite a bit once October rolls around. It’s hard to say how cool we’ll get, but fall weather will likely arrive along with October, which is usually the case.

For now, enjoy the sunny, mild weather!

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap


El Niño Update: Taking its sweet little time

So let me take a random stab in the dark and guess many of you are happy to see temperatures in the mid 80s exiting the 7 day forecast. Did you know Bremerton Airport recorded a high of 88 degrees on Friday? Sea-Tac airport broke a record with 90 degrees. So I guess my risky prediction still holds: we on the Kitsap Peninsula will likely not see 90 degrees again until 2013.

With all this unseasonably warm weather, many of you have been asking about the state of El Niño. Perhaps you cold and snow lovers will take solace in a statement released by the NOAA on September 6th saying:

 Most of the dynamical models, along with roughly one-half of the statistical models, now predict the onset of El Niño beginning in August-October 2012, persisting through the remainder of the year…Supported by the model forecasts and the continued warmth across the Pacific Ocean, the official forecast calls for the development of most likely a weak El Niño during September 2012, persisting through December-February 2012-13. (To read the full article, click here!)

The last weak El Niño we had was in 2006-2007, which offered some record cold, flooding and warmth along with an incredible skiing year, so the weaker the better! In fact, it’s very probable we remain “neutral” until the official onset of winter which means largely a wildcard weather pattern until then. Stay tuned to the NOAA website for further updates!

The short term looks drastically colder and wetter. You may have noticed the cooler temperatures and increase in cloud cover today and it will only get cooler and cloudier from here. Your Sunday looks mostly cloudy with a few scattered showers increasing in the evening. Highs will decrease from the upper 70s today to the mid 60s tomorrow.

Monday will be another cool and showery day with highs in the low and mid 60s. And while these weather days may feel more like a Washington fall, the skies will clear yet again and highs will rebound to the mid and upper 70s throughout the week next week. For most of us, the weather this upcoming week could be termed as “perfection”.

The long range forecast looks like continued dry and mild weather with no real end in sight. In fact, by the third week or so of the month we’ll probably average out in the low to mid 70s for highs. Overall, we’re looking at quite an impressive streak of mild fall weather!

Have a great weekend everyone,

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap

A sneak peek into the weather of Fall 2012

Colorado ski lift photo posted by Flickr user dkwonsh.

I know, we haven’t even had a true summer yet and we’re already talking about fall! But for what it’s worth, this may settle some fears that a looming El Niño will destroy all hope for skiing, snowboarding or school closures this year.

About a week ago I produced a weather post on why we may be in for an Indian summer. While I still feel we have a good chance at seeing a warm start to fall, some weather sources are saying it won’t last long. In fact, early predictions say the western United States may be in for a cold, wet and snowy (in higher elevations, of course ;)) autumn season. One of those weather sources is long range forecasting website

It will start out wet during the early and middle of the fall in the Northwest.

“I think it will start out wetter, but get drier in the late fall season, which could set up for a fairly dry or at least below-normal winter season across areas like Seattle and Spokane,” AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok said.

Wet weather will shift farther south across much of California during the middle to latter part of the season. A wet late-fall is in store for San Francisco. Increased snowfall expected in the Sierra is good news for California water supply, following a significant snow drought last winter. Read the full article here

The shift to drier weather in the late fall season would reflect the growing El Niño as well. This past Friday I sat down with Scott Sistek, weather producer at KOMO 4 News, as well as Steve Pool, KOMO 4 evening weather forecaster. Among many topics of discussion, one of them was the developing El Niño. I asked Scott if it’s looking healthy enough to play a big impact in our winter weather this year. He responded that it not only looks healthy, but also big. El Niño and La Niña weather patterns are divided into three groups: weak, moderate and strong. Scott believes we could be in for a moderate El Niño this winter, which typically means mild, dry and relatively calm.

Obviously nothing is set in stone yet, but already it sounds like an interesting couple of months ahead…weather-wise, anyway!

In the short term, however, the weather will be anything but interesting. In fact, it will be pretty typical of early August. The sun will gradually reappear through the end of the week into the weekend and high temperatures will rise to the upper 70s and lower 80s. After a brief marine push Monday of next week, a strengthening ridge should serve warm and sunny weather for the rest of the week.

Gotta love summer in the Pacific Northwest!

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap

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Why an Indian Summer may be in the forecast


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Hello everyone! It’s good to be back. You know how they say real summer in Western Washington doesn’t occur until after Independence Day? Well it appears the new normal in these parts is to reverse the “beginning of summer” from Independence Day to Labor Day.

Interestingly, within the past few years in the Northwest, August and September have produced some of the warmest weather of the summer season, with this past September even flinging us well into the 80s. Why the seasons are lagging a little behind is definitely a question to ponder, but if this year follows the pattern of the past few, we may be headed for a warmer and drier than normal end to summer and fall season.

This is what we call an “indian summer”, which is an unseasonably warm period of weather in mid autumn usually preceded by a substantial period of cool weather. Another factor in favor of this warmer than normal fall forecast is the fact that as we speak an El Nino is brewing in the Equatorial Pacific, which could spell warmer and drier conditions in the Northwest through the winter. Although the current sea surface temperatures indicate a fairly neutral pattern as of now, it does have the potential of forming into a full blown El Nino event.

So while this doesn’t spell good news for you skiers and snowboarders, it will at least offer some of those summer fans an opportunity to enjoy a period of warmer weather often missed the past couple months.

Speaking of warmer weather, there is even more good news for you summer fans! The next few days will feature more of the same partly to mostly cloudy skies with highs in the low-mid 70s, but Friday through Sunday look gorgeous as of now (don’t you love that small caveat: as of now? ;)) with skies clearing and temperatures rebounding into the upper 70s and low 80s. I’ll keep an eye on the models, but it could even get warmer than that, so stay tuned!

Sure, the weather does cloud up a bit and turn slightly cooler for the new week but…let’s just focus on the positives for now 😉

Have a great evening everyone!

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap