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First frosts vs. first flakes: Is there much of a correlation?

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In honor of the chilly mornings we’ve been experiencing the past few days, I decided to conduct a study that would ultimately prove to be not nearly as exciting as I hoped for, but it’s an interesting study nonetheless. Have you ever wondered when our average first frost is? No? Well…darn. I thought you might. Well, then have you ever wondered when our average first snow is? No?! Really?! Wow…then I DEFINITELY need to share my findings!

Amidst busy college projects and reports, I’ve set aside time to check the past 10 years of weather records (2001-2011) to see when the Bremerton area received 1) their first frost and 2)their first flakes. The criteria for frost is freezing or below and the criteria for flakes is they must be flying in the air, not necessarily sticking. So here’s what I found:

  • 2011 Frost: October 16th; Flakes: November 18th
  • 2010 Frost: October 14th; Flakes: November 21st
  • 2009 Frost: September 30th; Flakes: December 14th
  • 2008 Frost: October 10th; Flakes: December 13th
  • 2007 Frost: October 27th; Flakes: November 1st
  • 2006 Frost: October 30th; Flakes: November 26th
  • 2005 Frost: October 27th; Flakes: December 1st
  • 2004 Frost: October 24th; Flakes: January 6th (ouch!)
  • 2003 Frost: October 29th; Flakes: November 20th
  • 2002 Frost: October 13th; Flakes: December 28th (ouch again!)
  • 2001 Frost: October 28th; Flakes: November 28th

You wouldn’t believe how much I’ve looked over these numbers trying to find some sort of correlation. Does a later frost lead to a later snow? Not necessarily. In fact, one of our latest frosts in 2007 brought us our earliest snow in the past 10 years on November 1st. So does that mean a late frost means an early snow?!?! Hold your horses. Remember October 24th, 2004? Our first flakes weren’t spotted until…gulp…January 6th, 2005! Makes me nauseous to even think about it…

Ah! What about the time span in between the first frost and first snowflakes! Surely that will tell us something! Well, not really. In fact, 5 years are two months apart, 5 years are 1 month apart and one year is a week apart (2007). Drat! Looks pretty 50/50 to me.

Let’s analyze the colors for a moment. Blue indicates La Nina years while Red indicates El Nino years. This beautifully illustrates what these weather patterns do to our winter climate. Since 2007, La Nina has made more frequent appearances, and in all these years the frost came right on time (mid October) and the flakes followed shortly after. Conversely, look at the El Nino years. Aside from 2006’s anomaly, the flakes seemed to come consistently later. Yes, this is an El Nino year, but not a strong one, so we could go either way.

But a closer look could reveal something maybe only moderately intriguing. Then again, I get entertained easily. From 2001-2007, on average the first frost occurred at the end of October. Notice how from 2006 we get an earlier frost every year until 2009 where we peak at the earliest frost on record in the past 10 years: 2009. Then watch what happens after we hit 2009. 2010 we drop to Oct 14th, then on 2011 we drop to October 16th. Do these numbers look a little bit like a wave to you?

The first snows in each of these years, however, never seemed to come any earlier. In fact, these records show that pinpointing a first snow is still very much a gamble in this area, however if one insisted on betting I think sometime in November during an non-El Nino year would be a good shot. So that begs the question: when are we going to get our first frost?

According to the data I’ve received (which seems almost more like a mix of random numbers than a trend) I would go out on a limb and predict we’ll see our first *recorded frost in the Kitsap area in mid October, say sometime a little after the 16th.

Let me know if you see any other interesting trends in the numbers. Believe me, I tried hard! 🙂

Enjoy the rest of your week, everyone! We are well on our way to possibly reaching the 80s yet again on tomorrow.

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap


‘Old Farmers Almanac’ winter forecast complying with traditional El Niño values

Ah, the Old Farmers Almanac. Despite its name, these annual long range forecasts never get old. Reading more into the logic of their long range forecasting, the New Hampshire based company claims to derive its skill “from a secret formula that was devised by the founder of this Almanac, Robert B. Thomas, in 1792” which admittedly has been modernized as time and technology continually press forward.

I’ve been fascinated by the Old Farmers Almanac since my earliest days of forecasting. Of course, I’m not very advanced in years and couldn’t tell you how accurate they have been over the decades, but the almanacs that I have dating back to 1997 have been fairly accurate. But what can you expect from a super long range forecast? Anything above 50% is impressive to me in my book! In fact, if you’d REALLY like a sneak peek into how accurate the almanac was last winter, read Scott Sistek’s thorough analysis.

So what are the trusty farmers calling for this year, you ask? Perhaps it doesn’t surprise you there are a few stray elements of El Niño in the forecast, but it won’t be your typical El Niño. Yeah, it’s looking milder and drier than normal, but consistently through the winter.

“Winter time temperatures will be a couple degrees above normal, on average,” the almanac states. “Rainfall will be below normal, while snowfall will be near normal.” In fact, the almanac is predicting a nice little snow event for Western Washington a week or so before Christmas. This is also good news for skiers, as the snow pack likely won’t suffer.

Aside from a few snow possibilities sprinkled throughout the year, temperatures during winter 2012/2013 are forecast to average two degrees above normal with the exception of February, which could average as much as six degrees above normal. Precipitation will also be quite low, with December possibly averaging as much as three inches below normal.

A scan through the almanac’s detailed forecast for 18 regions of the U.S. reveals an interesting trend, however: this looks very much like a typical El Niño set up, although it looks like most places in the U.S. will be experiencing drier winters, which isn’t typical for the southeast during this type of pattern.

Take from this long range forecast what you will! I have been compiling some information the past few days and will release a fall forecast soon.

In the mean time, we will be clearing out and getting much warmer over the next few days! We may even hit 80 or more Thursday! Certainly doesn’t look like a fall forecast, but don’t worry. It’s coming 🙂

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap

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August 2012 weather stats: Warm, dry and…not much else

Hello everyone! Hope you all had an enjoyable and safe Labor Day weekend. My family and I went camping near Fort Lewis and had a fantastic time, although we greatly underestimated how cold it would be at night. It occurred to us we didn’t bring enough blankets when the low temperature Saturday morning was 43 degrees!

But of course, by that time August had left us and we began a new, naturally chillier month. In fact, September 1st is the beginning of meteorological fall! So let’s take a moment to analyze our last month of true summer weather and see our highest highs and lowest lows. First of all, here’s the graphic!

Already, this map looks very different than July’s. After some hot temperatures at the beginning of the month, both day and night, it seems that things calmed down considerably. In fact, from about the 16th onward temperatures never touched 80° and appeared to hug the line of “normal” temperatures. The low temperature tells the same story: a spike at the beginning of the month with a gradual trend towards normal, and then slightly below normal temperatures.

But who can forget the two “heatwaves” August offered us? Of course, on record we only had about 3 days at 90 or above, but they were impressive readings. 89 and 96 degrees on the 4th and 5th of August respectively put us back in the record books. Low temperatures even exceed 60 degrees for a brief time! The second wave of warmth occurred while I was sweltering in Provo, Utah on the 13th, 14th and 15th. Although largely unimpressive when compared to the warmth at the beginning of the month, high temperatures still stayed in the upper 80s and low 90s for a few days before nose diving to the upper 60s after its peak.

I then went out on a limb and predicted we may not see 90 degrees again until 2013…and that still seems like a viable prediction. The rest of the month went out quietly, but it didn’t completely sneak under the radar! In fact, on August 29th, the Kitsap Peninsula saw measurable rain that hadn’t been recorded in over a month. But even that rain was short lived and left as quickly as it came.

So what are the numbers? Let’s put it this way:

August average high temperature: 73.2°; August actual high temperature: 76.1°

August average low temperature: 49.7°; August actual low temperature: 51.2°

August average mean temperature: 61°; August actual mean temperature: 63.5°

In terms of the average overall temperature, August 2012 ran 2.5° above average. Of course, the deviance from average increases when you compare the high temperature and decreases when you compare the low temperature.

Is anyone sad to see August go? It was warm (sometimes very much so!), it was dry and it was overall very pleasant temperature wise. But I think a lot of us will look back at this month and largely forget any weather events that occurred because, like most Augusts around here, not much happened. Then again, this is coming from a weather nut who’s hard to impress! 😉

So how about this first full week of September? Will 80 degrees inaugurate the first day of school for some school districts? As it stands, between now and Thursday we’ll be on one big steady incline towards the 80 degree mark. It’s not looking like we’ll get much beyond that, but boy will it be sunny and warm to finish off the week! Highs will be in the mid 70s today to the upper 70s/low 80s Friday.

The weekend looks pretty good, although we’ll start to cloud up a bit towards the end of it on Sunday and introduce a little more in the way of clouds. Highs will also dip into the upper 60s and lower 70s.

But for those of you who just can’t get enough of the sun…you’re in luck! Already it’s looking like a pleasantly mild and dry first half of the month. In fact, I don’t see any signs of true fall-like weather until the 23rd of September or so, but by then the official fall season will only be a couple days old anyway 😉

Have a great day everyone and try to enjoy what summer some of you have left!

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap


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The all-too-common “80 degrees in September” scenario arrives

Before we get to the weather, I’d just like to say how much I, as well as many other students and staff at Central Kitsap High School, loved Ms. Frances Story. I knew her as a funny, sassy and quick-witted grandmotherly figure who knew how to teach students in the most memorable of ways. Ms. Story passed away after a long battle with lung cancer this week and she will be greatly missed.

I remember one morning she substituted my English class and began by expressing her frustration over the frequently misspelled word “receive”. “It’s ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’, or I’ll kick you in the knees,” she said with a straight face. Do you think anyone ever misspelled “receive” again in her class? Not if they wanted their knees! 😉 She was loved, respected and admired by all. I will very much miss her good humor, warm heart and tactful teaching. (Click here to read a Kitsap Sun news story released a couple years ago highlighting her 80th birthday celebration)

Rumor has it the weather this Labor Day weekend will be flawless, spectacular, enchanting, blissful, heavenly, gorgeous, stunning and/or simply nice. Well, that’s quite a tough order to fill, but if you’re not too picky, I think we can make this work 😉

First of all, the weekend will be kind of split in half. This means that Saturday will be the sunnier/warmer day, while a weak trough of low pressure will throw a few more clouds into the mixture and as a result cool the temps a little bit for Sunday. Either way, however, high temperatures will remain solidly in the 70s. Yeah, not the 80s some of you were hoping for but…don’t worry, that’s coming 😉

Labor Day itself will be overall lackluster and forgettable; that is, if your life revolves only around weather. If it doesn’t, then the outcomes of Labor Day will largely be in your control. 🙂 A thick marine layer of clouds will make for a mostly cloudy start to the holiday, but skies should clear enough to allow temperatures to at least hit the low 70s when all is said and done.

And then…wow. September will come in with a summery bang! As it appears now, we may be looking at an all-too-common case of 80 plus degrees in September. In fact, according to monthly temperature data gathered at Bremerton Airport, the last September we had that DIDN’T reach at least 80 degrees was back in 2005, and even then we got to 78. So this isn’t too rare, but we’ve certainly been spoiled these past 7 years!

Tuesday through Friday of next week will be one gradual increase to 80 degrees and, potentially, beyond. A thermally induced trough will likely set up shop once again which could take temperatures a few steps further. For now, we’ll go conservative with highs on either end of 80 🙂 Oh yeah, and did I mention skies will be mostly if not completely sunny most all of next week? Score!

Have a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend everyone!

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap


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Did you win the rain lottery? And will there be more winners?

Some of you might be asking yourselves: “What rain??” Others know exactly what I’m talking about, especially one Forecasting Kitsap reader who wrote:

“[In Silverdale] we had a big downpour and I was driving home with the top down because I bought a new rug!” Oops! Hope you and the rug made it home reasonably dry! I was in Port Orchard during a particularly heavy downpour when another Forecasting Kitsap reader commented that in their part of Port Orchard it was dry! This late season rain shower was a perfect example of a typical “rain lottery”, similar to the snow lottery we invest so much in come November 😉

Summer time in the Pacific Northwest is known for its dry spells, and this year was no exception. The last time we saw measurable rainfall in the Kitsap area was on July 20th! But usually when it rains in the summer, it isn’t consistent, long or widespread. In case you’re wishing for another shot at the “rain lottery”, you might just have to wait until…well…a long time. In fact, latest forecasting models are suggesting it could very well be another month before we get any more substantial rain. But more on that later in the week 🙂

In the meantime, there won’t be anymore soaking rugs as a ridge of high pressure–albeit weak–builds offshore. Before we get to that we’re going to have to wring out some left over clouds tomorrow. We’re not looking at anything dramatic, just mostly cloudy skies clearing to partly sunny skies in the afternoon.

Friday and Saturday will feature more of the same, but as the ridge strengthens the temperatures will rise from near 70 tomorrow to the low and mid 70s over the weekend.

Labor Day looks beautiful and skies will clear even more, boosting temps to the mid and upper 70s.

And then there’s the long range forecast. Remember how we talked about a warm start to September a few weeks back? Looks like that could still materialize. Current model projections have us perhaps reaching the 80s by next weekend.

I’m sure students would’ve preferred this weather BEFORE heading back to school, but we’ll take what we can get 😉

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap

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Flies in the ointment

Today is a perfect example of why I love forecasting the weather for the Kitsap Peninsula. No, I don’t love getting it wrong, but sometimes I’m glad when I do. Remember how a few days ago today was supposed to be mostly cloudy with rain? Well, so much for that! In fact, today’s forecast was the exact opposite with highs reaching the mid 70s under sunny skies.

But why the change in weather? Do weather forecasters just guess the whole time and somehow get lucky? It certainly seems that way, especially with the unpredictability of the weather this summer. But there’s a lot more of a science to forecasting than most think. It’s just that this part of the world is a little more difficult to forecast in for a number of reasons. First, the Pacific Northwest is geographically one of the hardest areas to forecast weather due to no current weather stations out in the Pacific to send feedback to us. Having a big, dark ocean to our west is kind of like trying to forecast with both eyes closed. Everywhere else in the nation there’s a state next door to help out in forecasting a progressing storm, but not us. We have to rely on what the ocean tells us! And believe me…it’s not nearly as reliable or close as we’d like.

Second, dramatic weather events in the west Pacific can sometimes alter our own forecasting models, calling for an 80-degree weekend one day and a cold, rainy weekend the next. This is exactly what is happening now. National Weather Service meteorologists in Seattle discussed today that weather model consistency will likely flip-flop over the next several days due to “flies, in the form of typhoons, in the ointment over the western Pacific”. Who knew severe storms heading towards Taiwan and the Korean Peninsula would have that much of an effect on our forecasting capabilities!

Satellite image of typhoon ripping through Japan and into Korea (8.27.12)

So, with that in mind, I’ll try to pick out the flies in this upcoming forecast and give you the most accurate forecast possible given the circumstances. Despite model inconsistency, one thing seems to be for certain: we will definitely be getting some rain showers this week and Labor Day weekend looks *awesome*! (I’m trying my best to type “awesome” as if I were whispering, since I don’t want the weather models to hear…)

After today’s high of 76 degrees, we’ll cool it down a notch to a more seasonable 74 degrees tomorrow with a little more cloud cover. Wednesday will be a little cooler still with the chance for rain most likely in the southern regions on the Kitsap Peninsula. In fact, the latest weather models indicate the northern half of Kitsap County could stay completely dry.

The skies clear once again on Thursday and temperatures climb a little more just in time for Labor Day weekend. It doesn’t look exceptionally warm by any means, but it’ll certainly be comfortable! Maybe I’ll pick out a few more flies in Labor Day weekend’s ointment, then we’ll revisit the forecast and see what we find 😉

Have a great day everyone!

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap


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July 2012 weather stats: Storms, clouds and…

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What a relief it was to go to the Mariners vs. Blue Jays game last night WITHOUT a jacket! Unlike two weeks ago, the weather was sublime for watching a great game of baseball. But as I sat in the nosebleeds, I began to think: how cold has it really been this month? I mean, I’ve worn light jackets far more than I expected to, but what are the statistics to prove how we ended up number-wise?

Drum roll please…this afternoon I worked on creating a map of our temperatures for the month of July 2012 compared to average. Before you see the results below the picture, just take a look at this graph and see if you can guess whether we ended up below, near or above normal in the temperature department:

The first striking piece of evidence we can find on this map is the spike in temperatures at the beginning of the month. In fact, we were going a little over a week above our normal daytime temperatures! But what held us back is the consistently cool overnight low temperatures during that same period. Then, when the daytime temperatures start to crash in the middle of the month, notice the spike in overnight low temperatures. If you were looking at this graph and thought to yourself, “This looks to be a pretty average month”, you’d be right…in some respects, anyway.

The average monthly temperature for July is 60.8 degrees, with highs and lows combined. Interestingly, when I calculated July 2012’s average monthly temperature, it came out to be…60.8 degrees! Perfectly normal month! However, when I separated the highs and lows, compared to the average monthly daytime high of 72.5, we came out 1.3 degrees cooler at 71.2. The night time temperature, which typically averages 49.1 degrees, came out at 50.4 which is a difference of +1.3. So, naturally, with our daytime high running -1.3 degrees and our night time low running +1.3 degrees…well…it doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out why we hit the monthly average temperature square on the nose 😉

Of course, we had quite the unusual run-in with thunderstorms, which dominated several days in the month. Due in part to the rare thunderstorms, Bremerton airport picked up a monthly total of 0.39”, which is significantly higher than the average 0.03”. And many other Kitsap locations saw far more than 0.39” by months end.

So, to sum up July 2012, we could say it was definitely a month of storms, clouds and fairly average weather. And with all the complaining and griping I heard in relation towards the weather this month, I can tell we’re not use to “normal” weather 😉

So…how about a little abnormality? After a relatively comfortable temperature of 72 degrees today, we’re going to take it down a few notches and introduce a little more cloud cover for tomorrow. In fact, we may even see some drizzle tomorrow morning. As it stands, highs will likely only make it into the upper 60s.

A ridge of high pressure builds into the area Thursday night which will pave the way for continued clearing on Friday and much warmer temperatures. We *may* even get another 80 degree day out of this, but so far it looks like we will be stuck in the 70s.

Then things really start to warm up for our weekend with highs bouncing into the mid and upper 80s across the peninsula. We may find ourselves with the warmest couple of days we have seen all summer. With that being said…get out and enjoy it! A stronger marine push invades the region later Sunday and that will spell more in the way of spotty clouds and cooler temperatures for the new week.

Good job August! Keep it up!

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap  

Thunderstorms and rain have entered the forecast…again

It is truly amazing to hear about the dreadful heat and drought conditions in the east, some of which the worst in 50 years. I wish we could push some of–or all of–the moisture here to the areas that need it, but the weather models are consistently bringing system after system into our region making for a cooler and slightly wetter than normal weather pattern. And, to add to all of that, we may have a run in with thunderstorms again.

That’s right! The Seattle area averages about 7 thunderstorms a year, making it one of the rarest locations in the country to find such storms. But I heard we haven’t seen much in the way of thunder and lightning the past few years, so Mother Nature’s just trying to make up for it 😉 Your forecast tomorrow looks a bit cloudy in the morning, although with the strong summer sun those pesky clouds should burn away quickly and lead to more in the way of afternoon sunshine. Highs will bounce into the mid and upper 70s, which is a far cry from today’s 66 degree high temperature!

A stronger onshore push will arrive later Thursday, but it won’t come without a bang. Thunderstorms will bubble up along the eastern foothills and Cascades, but could wander our direction through the night, so don’t be surprised to hear some thunder tomorrow night. Lows will be near 60.

Friday onward the forecast becomes very uncertain. Weather models seem to think one thing one 6 hour time frame, and then switch to another concept in another 6 hour time frame. I mean, you’d swear we’re in winter! But the general consensus is: a cooler/cloudier start to our weekend with Friday being the coolest day with highs near 70. The sun returns briefly for yard work on Saturday before the clouds and showers return for Sunday. Then, we should make a gradual change to more summer-like weather as next week progresses. Highs should eventually make it to near 80 by this time next week.

This is what makes weather forecasting fun…it’s like trying to catch a fly blindfolded sometimes… 🙂

Have a great evening!

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap


Getting back to “normal” summer weather

I don’t know if it’s a bad thing that I’m saying this but…I’m going to miss the storms and active weather! Notice how meteorologists NEVER complain when a storm is coming. In fact, that very storm could be termed as their paycheck, so if anything storms are what weather geeks live for. 🙂

It’s felt a bit humid/muggy the past few days, but luckily we’re going to start drying out and keeping things relatively normal for at least the next 5 days or so. I say “relatively” because what’s normal to us is not exactly what could be termed as normal to the rest of the nation. Take a look at today’s high temperature map from

Notice how there are only a few locations cooler than us, namely central/southern California and northern Minnesota. The nation as a whole is going through a mighty hot period right now, and depending on whether you consider it good or bad news, we’ll struggle to make it past 80 degrees this week. I know, I know, I’m still waiting for our record breaking heatwave 😉 Who can forget the triple digit readings in July 2009? Anyone want to repeat that? 🙂

Back to the present, we’ll see mostly clear skies tonight except for the chance for a stray thunderstorm or two that could pop out anytime between now and tomorrow afternoon. These pesky systems are hard to track, and they seem to come at random, so just be warned you may see flashes of lightning accompanied by loud claps of thunder tonight. Lows will dip into the upper 50s.

Tomorrow will remain mostly sunny with, again, the chance for an afternoon thundershower. Highs will warm into the upper 70s to near 80 degrees.

With onshore flow a little stronger, Wednesday will feature more in the way of cloud cover with highs cooling back into the mid 70s, but it looks like we’ll make a gradual warming trend as we approach the weekend, and we may see much warmer weather by early next week. Too early to tell just yet as models have been flip-flopping almost as bad as they do in the winter, so stay tuned.

For now, be safe and enjoy your Monday evening!

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap


Thunderstorm update and cool summer weather ahead

What a day it has been! What started as a stormy and electrifying first half of our Friday is turning out to be mostly pleasant with frequent sunbreaks in between the ominous looking clouds above us. But that won’t last too long as more disturbances are headed our way. The National Weather Service has issued this Special Weather Statement as of 4:02 PM:


Thunderstorm activity is likely tonight and through most of tomorrow, so be warned that we’ll still be up against some stormy weather until Sunday. It appears like we’ll see more sunshine tomorrow than we have today, so expect partly sunny skies with scattered thundershowers throughout the day. Highs will be a bit warmer in the mid 70s.

Sunday will be a little more on the cloudy and cool side as a stronger front moves into the region, bringing some rain showers with it. Highs will struggle to make it much beyond 70 degrees.

Monday through next week remains a complicated forecast to say the least. Highs will stay in the mid 70s most of the week with periods of clouds, sun and rain showers. Actually, believe it or not, the weather pattern for next weeks is pretty typical for this time of year, despite the drop in temperatures! And no, thunderstorms don’t look likely this time around 🙂

The long range forecast still advertises near normal temperatures with equally as normal precipitation over the next 10 days, so maybe it’ll be good to introduce normality in the forecast again 🙂

Stay safe everyone!

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap

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