The Summer Solstice Edition


summer sol3

It’s admittedly been a bit of a dry spell since Wordsmith Maggie last posted her blog. Coincidentally, it’s also been a bit of dry spell here in the Puget Sound region these past few months, with lawns already parched in most places, most notably Chambers Bay where the final round of the 115th U.S. Open golf tourney ended in dramatic fashion this past weekend. (Never mind the fact that merely eight years ago today’s University Place golf “greens” were the site of a sprawling gravel pit…)
So, while fans and golf pros alike were left scratching their heads in confusion about the bone-dry conditions they encountered here in the “rainy” Pacific Northwest (in spring, no less!), the following excerpt from on the subject should serve as a primer on the region’s dicey weather patterns.

A Wet Lesson in Seattle Weather for Newbies
“It rains in Seattle, like all the time.” “No it doesn’t.” “Does too.” Get a clue.
Where you live means the difference between sunshine and clouds, rain and snow, and whether the wind is going to blow the leaves from your lawn and turn your trash can lid into a flying saucer.
Step one, apologize to meteorologists. If you’re used to a midwest forecast you’ve lived in luxury. From the middle of the country and east, meteorologists have dozens and hundreds of weather stations telling them what’s coming. Seattle’s weather is determined out over the Pacific where the population density is rather low. Surprises happen. Want better forecasts? Help them get more floating weather stations.

precip wa

Raw data: Seattle’s average annual rainfall is 37.41 inches. Really kind of useless when you look at the map.
What about your neighborhood? Geography makes the biggest difference. As if a great unknown series of storms weren’t enough, when they hit land they run into an 8,000 foot high fence called the Olympics. After that splits and churns the air, the tumbled mass flows across various bumps of land and great flat swathes of nearly constant temperature water. It’s a mess.

converg wa

When the storms recollide they act up the pesky Puget Sound Convergence Zone, a line of clouds and rain that may only be a few miles wide, but is hard to ignore–especially when everywhere else is laughing because their forecast for rain turned into blue sky. The PSCZ can be anywhere but it frequently forms up over north King County.
Even during a storm, blue skies happen. When the weather’s just right, the Olympic Rain Shadow forms. Storms coming in from the Southwest leave such a gap in the rain pattern that Sequim (pronounced S’quim), on the northeast corner of the Olympic peninsula, gets less than 16 inches of rain a year.
From the middle of Whidbey and north, the islands are in the same banana belt.
That banana belt comes at a price, though. The San Juans are far enough north that storms coming in from the west miss the Olympics and hit full force. Power outages happen.
As the weather moves past the city is rises as it hits the Cascades. A phenomenon called organic lift (a fancy way of saying the higher you go, the wetter you get…)
By the way, the foothills get their windstorms, too. Sometimes the air decides to switch directions and flow back downhill and hit the lowlands, at least for a short while…
Oh yes, and over the water there’s wind. Even on relatively calm days, the [Puget] Sound may be whitecapped as systems flow in from the south with nothing to stop them.
[Without even taking marine layers, inversions, freaky little waterspouts, etc. into account], there’s an easier way to understand a [Pacific Northwest] neighborhood’s weather, and it has little to do with data and charts…
Look at the gardens. Are they growing palm trees or moss-covered big leaf maples? Are the tomatoes fat and red and in the fresh air, or are they inside moss-covered greenhouses? Are the lawns xeriscaped deserts, lush and green blades, or just moss? Come to think of it, just check for the moss.

gingermoss carpet

Ginger moss carpet

For further information on the weather whims of the not-always-so-rainy Pacific Northwest, visit local weather guru, Cliff Mass at:
And for curious readers who’d care to know, Wordsmith Maggie’s organic backyard vegetable & herb garden is doing fantastic, thank you very much. What’s her secret? Water (duh!), with regular early morning and early evening dousings. The yard is another matter. To avoid sending her water bill into the stratosphere, lack of watering has lead to it’s present near brown condition, just like most other lawns (and golf courses, apparently) around these parts.

Lots more Seattle Outsider Musings news to come, dear reader.  Meantime, hope you are enjoying your summer so far, weather notwithstanding.

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