Water + 140 km/hr winds = Endless Entertainment

Earlier this month many videos were posted to social media showing the magic of water instantly freezing into tiny ice crystals. 

Ironically, many people were not appropriately dressed when they conducted these 'official' experiments, so there have been reports of numerous injuries when people in milder climates toss the boiling water into the air, and well, it doesn't freeze; the result...scalding burns.

Use extreme caution and a bit of common sense if you want to try that at home.

Now, in the Pacific Northwest, we don't have the luxury of turning boiling water instantly to ice crystals. 

BUT, arguably we have something much better.

A new phenomenon is catching on, and our many microclimates in the area provide a unique opportunity to try a different type of experiment. 

I give you, The Gap Wind Water Spray:

Video 2: Shows why it becomes particularly important the direction you park during hurricane force winds

Video 3: Strong enough to blow you off your feet? Looks like a few tourists visiting Crown Point got swept up in all the action (thankfully they were okay) 

For the folks who want a little more details about gap winds I can give a brief explanation:

  • The Columbia Gorge in Oregon provides very strong, entertaining winds during an easterly flow (high pressure east, low pressure west)
  • Typically at the exit of the Gorge winds are strongest
  • Cold air  settles in the lower basins of eastern Oregon during these events like today:
HRRR min temps.png

You'll find higher pressure in the eastern Gorge, and relatively lower pressure in the western side of the Gorge. The steep sides of the canyon walls prevent the cold air from becoming shallower, until the gap abruptly widens. At the end of the gap, the pool of cold air spreads out (similar to a confined river spreading out after a narrow channel) which causes a rapid pressure difference and massive increase in surface wind speeds.

Current wind speeds at Vista House, Oregon are exceptionally strong and in the past hour a gust to over 140 km/hr! 

windy.png

There's been some talk on social media that this weather sensor position under-represents the strongest winds at the location by up to 30 km/hr, so gusts up to 160 km/hr+ have been recorded in more ideal positions by handheld anemometers.

Unbelievable. 

A Look Ahead to a Pattern Change

Current ensemble forecasts by the GEFS (Global Ensemble Forecast System), show a rapid decrease in 850 hPa temperatures (~1500 metres ABOVE sea level) which will be a welcome relief for the mountain resorts that are struggling with snowfall to date. 

850 hPa temperatures are highest today, and will gradually fall back to seasonal values by January 29th

850 hPa temperatures are highest today, and will gradually fall back to seasonal values by January 29th

Temperatures today at 850 hPa are once again extreme outliers... 99+ percentile.

Skiing in your bathing suit, anyone?

Normal mountain temperatures for January are below freezing, not +12C... or over 2 standard deviations from a normal value. 

Normal mountain temperatures for January are below freezing, not +12C... or over 2 standard deviations from a normal value. 

Finally, I wanted to briefly teach a few of you weather nerds how to read one of these plots below. At first glance, it looks EXTREMELY confusing, but I want to break it down for you. Trust me, it's not as bad as it looks. If you have a strong aversion to any type of graph or chart you may want to skip ahead though...

  • The European ensemble prediction system (gold standard for ensembles along with NAEFS), runs 50 different members listed below (0 to 50 listed on Y axis). 
  • Through different perturbations (changing equations, initial conditions etc.) and taking account model uncertainty each one of these model runs are advanced through time, at a lower resolution than the deterministic models
  • The graph below the colourful mosaic compares the ensemble mean with the deterministic model mean, and it should be noted the ensemble mean is showing nearly 5x more accumulated precipitation (.2 vs. .9 inches)\

Take home message: lots of uncertainty for amounts with about 12 members showing 1+ inch and 4 members showing next to nothing...

EPS mean YVR.png

After the model runs tonight, another blog post might be merited tomorrow.

Cheers.

#50ShadesofVan