Showers Will Melt Away, but Lightning Could Spark More Fires

Aug 2, 2013

Drizzly skies are expected to yield to warmer temperatures and some sun this weekend, because of an upper level trough over us and that’s causing upward motion and clouds, says Cliff Mass, KPLU’s weather expert.

“And so much of Washington and even Oregon are in clouds right now. Showers are circling around from eastern Washington over the Cascades into western Washington,” says Mass, who teaches Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington.

He says people from Portland up to Bellingham are going to see some showers today.

“Maybe even a few thunderstorms mixed in there. But it should start weakening later in the day and tomorrow should be the transitional day, back to a much more normal situation with temperatures in the 70s and some low clouds in the morning,” Mass says.

He says the weather isn’t likely to ease the situation for wildfires much; lightening has been sparking in the east, but it doesn’t normally bring enough rain with it at this time of year to deliver much relief for firefighters. And the record-dry July has caused fire season to start about 3 weeks early this year.

“Because we’ve had a very, very dry July,” Mass says. “We’re talking about one of the driest on record in the west and much dryer than normal in the east.”

That has dried out twigs and branches and primed the forests to catch fire easily when lightning strikes. And Mass says it won’t get any easier in the weeks ahead.

“This is the period now, August is the time at risk,” Mass says, predicting more challenges as the traditional firefighting season gets underway.   

Do you have a weather question? Cliff Mass and Bellamy Pailthorp occasionally answer reader questions on the air. Share yours here.

The weekly KPLU feature "Weather with Cliff Mass" airs every Friday at 9 a.m. immediately following BirdNote, and twice on Friday afternoons during All Things Considered. The feature is hosted by KPLU Environment Reporter Bellamy Pailthorp. Cliff Mass is a University of Washington Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, a renowned Seattle weather prognosticator, and a popular weather blogger. You can also subscribe to a podcast of “Weather with Cliff Mass” shows.