Weather with Cliff Mass

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If you live in the Pacific Northwest, a scary lightning strike isn’t very likely.

But there was one recently in Seattle’s Arboretum that could be a case study in a text book.

“The lightning bolt went right down the moist center of the tree, blew the tree out and so it just spread apart,” Mass said.

He says in this case, the lightning hit just right and heated up the moisture at the core of the tree, causing steam to form and blast it into pieces.

“Pieces of that tree were sent off as projectiles, hundreds of feet away,” and embedded themselves deeply into the ground because of the force of the blow.

“It was amazingly dangerous,” Mass said.

“And there’s been explosive trees around here before; this is not the first incident. But it’s probably the most dramatic I’ve ever seen,” he said.

He says he’s never seen anything like it, at least not in nature.

“It looked like one of those onions you get at Safeco Field,” he said.

In this week’s episode Mass explains why lightning strikes are relatively rare here, why the recent one near the Arboretum visitor center was so forceful and how to position yourself on the off chance that you do get caught in a lightning strike.

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The weak, rainy front that stopped for a short visit the Puget Sound is moving along and leaving more warm dry weather in its wake, said Cliff Mass, KPLU's weather expert.

A small system between Seattle and Everett might bring brief showers later on Friday. But areas south of Seattle -- particularly areas hosting major golf tournaments -- should expect warm, dry weather for the whole weekend.  Saturday and Sunday will start with morning clouds that will clear as the day progresses, Mass said.

Tim Durkan Photography

The mid-week warm weather has been replaced by a cool swath of marine air that will linger for the early weekend and then dissipate into warmer temperatures come Sunday and Monday, said KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.

Expect temperatures in the upper 60s to the low 70s with morning clouds for Saturday and early Sunday, Mass said.  The warmer temperatures -- potentially into low 80s -- will return briefly later Sunday and Monday. Cooler weather then will reassert itself late Monday.

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If your Memorial Day weekend plans include a hike in the mountains, be prepared for rain. And if you’re hanging around the Northwest Folklife Festival or elsewhere in the lowlands, expect showers, says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.

He says it’s a continuation of a pattern that started on Thursday and continued into Friday morning.

“We had a lot of low clouds moving in to the west of the Cascade Crest,” Mass said.

“There’s an on-shore pressure gradient and so there’s stratus and strato cumulous (clouds) at lower levels. But at upper levels, we’re getting flow still coming off the mountains,” he said.

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If you were out in shorts last weekend, slathering on sunscreen, be prepared for a different kind of weather this Saturday and Sunday.

“There won’t be a lot of sun tomorrow for most of Western Washington. Maybe a few sunbreaks, but not much more than that,” says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington. “This is going to be kind of a so-so, middle-of-the-road weekend.”

Tim Durkan Photography

Friday is the best day of the weekend to recharge your vitamin D stores by soaking up sun and warmth, says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.

But the whole weekend looks pretty glorious. He says the small amount of clouds present are limited to places near the water.

“A few fog patches along the coast, those are burning off, so – great day,” he said of Friday’s weather. “Temperatures will get into the lower to mid-seventies, with total sun, no precipitation, so – wonderful.”

Tim Durkan

Enjoy the sunny weekend –but keep your rain gear ready – we’re going to have a nice scenario for gardening and other outdoorsy pursuits this weekend.

That’s according to KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass, who is also excited about the recent news of El Nino and La Nina. (Click “listen to our podcast and hear his information about all that.)

Tim Durkan

Windy weather this weekend will make umbrella use a bit problematic, but you probably will need a parka or other rain gear, at least for the next day or so.

“We have an upper level trough over us and that brings cold air and unstable conditions where we get the cumulous (puffy clouds) and thunderstorms developing,” said Mass.

And so on  Friday, Mass says expect some showers, especially in the mountains and South Sound.

Tim Durkan Photography

Gardeners can get out the gloves and seed but skiers will have to stow their gear. Clear skies and warm temperatures headed our way will melt the small blanket of new snow from last week, said KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.

“On Thursday, we had almost complete sunshine,” Mass said, adding that his team of meteorologists at the University of Washington measures the amount of solar radiation coming in. “And there were virtually no clouds getting in the way of our sensor, so it was total, maximum sunshine.”

Tim Durkan

Cliff Mass is one of the region’s clearest communicators about the weather. We talked this week about the impacts of climate change in the next century. He has indicated in the past that we are relatively lucky when it comes to climate change.

But there will be changes, in the future.

Tim Durkan

The thunderstorms that hit our region a couple of days ago are a classic sign of spring in the Northwest. And the temps we’ve been experiencing lately are entirely normal for this time of year, says KPLU weather expert, Cliff Mass. 

So if you’ve been shivering and wishing for the balmy temps that made Monday seem like summer, Mass says you might as well get used to it for a while. We’re in for a cloudy, unsettled weekend, with “plenty of clouds around," according to Mass.

Stephanie Sinclair

Spring is officially here.

The vernal equinox means that days and nights are of equal length. From here on out, the days will get longer. It’s also a great season for cloudgazing, which KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass knows a lot about.

This weekend will bring plenty of opportunities for admiring all kinds of clouds.

“Clouds like altostratus and altocumulus that will be thickening in,” Mass said. “Another cloud that’s very popular around here we’ll see tomorrow morning: the stratocumulus – low clouds that have these heaps and clear skies in between.”

Tim Durkan Photography

Get your tee shirts and shorts out. You'll need them as we head into the weekend. 

That’s the word from KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass, who says the warm air above us is “warm enough that if it was completely sunny today, many people would experience temperatures getting into the lower 70s.”

Possibility Of Record-Breaking Temps Friday

The big question, Mass said, is how much the clouds will thicken up on Friday around the Puget Sound region.

If they’re thick, Mass says temperatures will hit 66 or 67 degrees, which is way warmer than normal.

Tim Durkan

If rainy weather makes you blue, don’t worry. The sun will come out on Saturday, and the weekend will bring us back to the pattern of sunshine. 

KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass sounded a bit surprised to see rain coming down on Friday, amid one of the sunniest winters we’ve experienced in a long time.

Tim Durkan

Friday’s clouds and sprinkles are moving out, and sunshine and more warmth are coming in this weekend.

And you can expect the pattern of unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having in western Washington to intensify over the next week, says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.

Tim Durkan

Mother Nature is serving up sunny skies and amazingly warm temperatures for the long Valentine’s Day weekend.

KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass says conditions will be “perfect for conditions hikers, bikers and gardeners; let’s not mention skiers." 

Tim Durkan

Keep your rain gear handy.

The record rain that hit Seattle and drenched the Olympic Mountains Thursday will keep pounding the region for most of the weekend, says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.

Tim Durkan

Dense fog blanketed much of the region Friday morning, but it burned off quickly, though morning fog is in the forecast again Saturday.

“Strangely enough, that’s a good sign,” said KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.

Steve Mohundro / Flickr

Western Washington has been warmer than normal lately. People were shedding layers as the mercury hit temperatures in the 50s this week.

KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass says that pattern will continue and intensify this weekend, especially on Sunday. Records will be broken.

Ted S. Warrena / AP Photo

KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass says his email inbox has been full of questions about when the snow will return to western Washington, especially in the mountains and ski areas.

“In fact, things are not great right now,” Mass said. And extended forecasts indicate it’s unlikely to improve much this year.

Tim Durkan

The mild winter weather will continue through the weekend, and a burst of rain expected Saturday should die down in time for the Seahawks game, says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.

Tim Durkan

The fog will likely stick around for a few more days, thanks to “a huge inversion,” an upside-down pattern of air temperatures that trap morning fog, says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.

Tim Durkan

The dry, cold weather and clear blue skies that ushered in the new year with spectacular mountain views around Seattle is coming to an end. The clouds have moved in and you’ll need some rain gear by Sunday at the latest, says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.

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Engaging with his audience is something KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass very much enjoys.

Tim Durkan

If you ever have a question about the weather, KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass wants to hear it. We’ve assembled answers to a range of listener queries and will be answering them over the next two weeks. Here’s the first batch.

Puget Sound Energy

Winds that toppled trees and caused about 150,000 power outages around the Puget Sound region have subsided, but they made for some exciting weather Thursday night, says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass. 

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Replace your wool hat and gloves with your rain gear. We’re back to warm and wet weather, says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.

The rain will settle in Friday and temperatures will rise into the 50s, says Mass, setting the stage for the rest of the weekend.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Forget any hopes you may have had for skiing over the holiday weekend. But you might see some snow at sea level.

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The week before Thanksgiving is normally the wettest, stormiest part of the year in the Pacific Northwest. And true to form, the rains and wet clouds are back, says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.

“If you look at the records going back decades, this is the week: ground zero for storms and wetness here in the Northwest. And it may not disappoint,” Mass said.

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