A winter storm blanketed the Pacific Northwest this week and extra is predicted within the coming days. The National Weather Service (NWS) – Seattle tweeted on February ninth:
6.four” inch of snow at Sea-Tac yesterday. New daily record and 2nd most in a single day of the past 20 years. Only exceeded by 6.8″ on January 18. 2012. #wawx
Responding to a query about what number of instances it has snowed on February eighth in Seattle, NWS identified that “since records began 6.4″ in 2019, 2.9″ in 2014, 1.0″ in 1916, zero.four” in 1957 and 0.1″ in 1904.” Seattle averages just below 6 inches of snow in the course of the winter based on SeatteWeatherWeblog.com. It snowed whereas I used to be at a climate convention in Seattle a number of years in the past, and the town was clearly excited and nervous about it. The beautiful views of snow-capped Mt. Rainier could provide the notion that Seattle is a snowy place, however it isn’t. The climate set-up this week allowed for snow-supporting, chilly air in Seattle (graphic beneath), however there’s sometimes a competing issue that limits snow. What is it?
In order to reply to this query, now we have to evaluation some fundamental ideas that I not too long ago shared with my college students at The University of Georgia. The first idea is one thing known as warmth capability. It is a measure of the quantity of warmth required to lift the temperature of a physique or substance by one diploma. If this amount is given in time period of unit mass, it’s known as particular warmth. The particular warmth or warmth capability of water may be very related for understanding why Seattle isn’t as snowy as locations additional inland or at increased elevations.
The U.S. Geological Survey Water School web site has a wonderful dialogue of the warmth capability of water. It factors out that
water has to soak up four,184 Joules of warmth for the temperature of 1 kilogram of water to extend 1 diploma celsius (°C). For comparability sake, it solely takes 385 Joules of warmth to lift 1 kilogram of copper 1°C.
Such fundamental traits clarify why strolling on a scorching sandy Georgia seashore with naked ft could also be uncomfortably heat in May though the water remains to be fairly cool. Sand requires a lot much less warmth to heat up than water. The identical “physics” additionally explains why the height of the Atlantic hurricane season is normally in September though the seasonal “starts” June 1st. If your children begin bugging you to go to the pool when it opens on Memorial Day and you already know the water is just too (private expertise), simply hit them with some particular warmth formulations.
Due to its heat-retaining properties, water additionally tends to carry warmth longer because the transition from summer season to winter happens. This physics coupled with the geography of Seattle is crucial for explaining the relative lack of snow there. According to the emergency administration web site of the town of Seattle,
Most of the time Seattle’s winter climate is managed by the Pacific Ocean which stays comparatively even in temperature all year long. Occasionally, nonetheless, chilly air from the inside of the continent pushes into the Puget Sound area and causes dramatic chilly spells, ice and snow.
In different phrases, winter climate in Seattle is regulated by its proximity to the Puget Sound and Pacific Ocean. According to Jordan Steele writing for King5.com, the water temperatures of those our bodies are sometimes round 48-52 levels F (see graphic above for present temperatures in levels C). This limits the variety of sub-freezing days. With the latest winter storms within the Pacific Northwest, the February seventh NWS dialogue indicated an space of low stress within the Northwest Territories and excessive stress within the Yukon space. These circumstances allowed sufficiently chilly air to maneuver into area offsetting the moderating affect of the close by water our bodies.
Seattle is actually identified for its rainfall, however it’s making headlines with a few of its highest snowfall totals in over 70 years. Ironically, the snow cowl itself amplifies the already chilly temperatures. It shall be attention-grabbing to see how a lot further snow falls there within the coming days. While NOAA or National Weather Service is at all times my most well-liked location for climatological date, the web site at this hyperlink has some very helpful statistics on the climatology of snow in Seattle.