Free-Range Weather

Cage-Free Weather Commentary

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Last Warm Day of the Year in Central Oregon?

Hope you enjoyed yesterday, because it might have been our last warm day (70+) of the year. After a frosty start, we topped out at a pleasantly warm 77 degrees, six degrees above average.

Couldn’t Crack 80
The National Weather Service forecasted a high of 82, as did weather.com. Neither forecasted a low near freezing (we hit 32.7 but had frost), so perhaps that cold start prevented us from hitting the magic 80 degree mark.

The Bend Airport’s high reached 84 after a comparatively balmy low of 42, so my reasoning holds there. What about Redmond? The airport soared to 85 after a chilly 33 degree start, an impressive 52 degree diurnal temperature swing. Hmmn…my theory doesn’t look so good after digesting those numbers. Perhaps Sisters had a bit of an inversion (cold air near the ground/warmer air above it; not the usual atmospheric setup!) that prevented the air mass from reaching its maximum temperature. More research may be needed.

golden quaking aspens

Central Oregon aspens will soon look like this. Glorious!

Next Two Weeks Look Very Autumnal
So why was yesterday probably our last 70 degree day until, I don’t know, April 2018? There are several reasons, but the most important are the rapidly decreasing sun angle and length of day. Even a week after the autumnal equinox, each day we’re still losing more than three minutes of daylight. Add that to an increasingly lower sun angle and it makes it harder to hit 70.

Oh, and soon storms will start rolling in from the Pacific, and while October storms don’t pack the meteorological wallop that December ones do, clouds and cool Pacific air tend to keep high temps in the 50s and low 60s.

The long-range forecasts are not on our side either. The Climate Prediction Center and weather.com call for 50s and 60s for the next two weeks. Adding all of these ingredients together, past mid-October it’s tough for Central Oregon to squeeze out another sparkling 70 degree day.

Let’s hope the forecasts are wrong and we can eke out at least one more 70 degree day before Old Man Winter takes up residence in Central Oregon for several months.

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Battle of the Winter Forecasts

Accuweather Winter Forecast

Accuweather Winter Forecast

Not to be outdone by Accuweather, The Weather Channel peered deeply into their crystal ball and published their winter 2013-14 forecast. They’re radically different, except for the Northeast.

Whom to believe? Who knows? Without an El Nino or La Nina to guide them (“neutral” conditions are expected, which means that an easy El Nino winter forecast like drier and warmer in the Northwest and rainier in the Southwest, is not available), long-range forecasters have to work a little harder to nail down their predictions. (How do forecasters create their long-term forecasts? That’s a topic for another day.)

Let’s break the forecast down by region:
Northeast – Accuweather says mild early with winter arriving way behind schedule (or – in like a lamb, out like a lion). TWC says pretty much the same thing.
Southeast – TWC forecasts cold early on, then moderating temps. Accuweather says the opposite and adds in risk of severe thunderstorms in the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys.
Midwest – Accuweather forecasts “cold shots” with above normal snows for the upper Great Lakes. TWC basically punts and says “variable.”
Southwest/West – TWC says the ” strongest signal for a warmer-than-average winter is from the the Desert Southwest into the south-central states” with the West Coast and Northwest getting the variable tag, while Accuweather states that the Southwest will have “wet episodes” and the Northwest will be wet and snowy, depending on how far inland you are.

To hyper-localize things, TWC says that my little town of Sisters, Oregon, will have a normal winter and Accuweather says it will be snowy. Here’s hoping TWC is right.

What do you think of the forecasts for your area?

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World’s Driest Place

Andean Flamingos in the Altacama Desert

Andean Flamingos in the Altacama Desert (courtesy Wikipedia)

The world’s driest place? Chile’s Atacama Desert takes the dubious prize. Despite being very close to the Pacific Ocean, the world’s driest desert averages only 0.004 inches per year, which means that it would take a thousand years for the Atacama to receive an inch of precipitation! The mighty Andes Mountains steal almost all of the moisture from the Pacific, leaving the Atacama literally high and dry.

It’s extreme aridity makes California’s Mojave Desert, with its 1.7 inches per year annual precipitation, seem positively tropical. The Weather Channel had an interesting post about extreme weather yesterday.

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The Weather Channel’s “Summer” Forecast

I say “summer” as about half the video discusses the outlook for May, not commonly thought of as a summer month (unless you’re in the southern tier of states, where average highs can be well into the 80s in May).

TWC is predicting well above normal temps for the drought-plagued high plains and West; the East and South will be warmer than normal as well. The only region of the country forecast to have below normal summer time temps is the Great Lakes. Storm Specialist Dr. Greg Postel said that while summer 2013 won’t be as hot as 2012, it will still exacerbate drought conditions in the West.

Neither Postel or Meteorologist Maria LaRosa mention the negative effect that a long, hotter than normal summer will have on fire conditions in the West.

 

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Is Zeus the Caboose?

CPC OutlookFor those blissfully unaware of such things, The Weather Channel (TWC) started naming winter storms last year; their 26th named storm of the season is called Zeus. Residents of the snow- and cold-plagued northern Rockies and upper Midwest hope that Zeus is indeed the caboose of their seemingly endless 2012-13 winter season.

The forecast (and the calendar) offer hope, as Friday’s forecast high in Denver is 63 with upper 60s and lower 70s possible on the weekend, according to TWC. And today’s Climate Prediction Center one- to two-week forecast calls for above normal temps (orange shading) and average precipitation. It might not be time for sunblock, but it should be time to put away the snowblowers.