Winter Is On The Way – Part 1, Predictions

Well it isn’t winter yet, but you can see it coming.  The morning news notes that a combination of snowy weather and the government shutdown is having an impact on the Pacific Crest Trail hikers.  Snow in the mountains is generally our first indication that we are headed into the winter season.  For us out here on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, the winter weather generally isn’t as dramatic as it is in the mountain passes between eastern and western Washington.  Still, it is time to take stock of those things we need to do make sure we get safely through the Peninsula’s gray, wet and occasionally snowy period.

Over the next days, we will take some time to look at what the coming season means to us and what we need to do to get ready for it.  Today we will look at the weather forecasts for our area in general to see what it is we may expect and in future installments we will look at weatherizing your car and your home.  For some of our area residents, winter also means pulling up stakes and heading for warmer and drier climates so we will also do an article on weatherizing your home for a long term-absence.

There’s a whole industry in weather forecasting and for some of us it seems a bit like gazing into a crystal ball, but the kings of prognostication are the folks at “The Old Farmer’s Almanac.”  The Old Farmer’s Almanac was first published in 1792 – that was during George Washington’s first term as president. It was a folksy publication that blended humor with valuable information and it laid claim to a “secret method” of forecasting that it reckons is right about 80% of the time.  That 80% figure is a bit tough to pin down.  Weather being what it is, a little bit of rain and a little bit of sun frequently go together on the same day around here making everybody a little right and a little wrong.  Professional meteorologists suggest the almanac is right only about 50% of the time; that is, a coin toss.

Whether you believe the almanac – or only half believe the almanac – their prediction for our area is for slightly below average temperatures for October and slightly above average temperatures for November.  Their longer term forecast is for a snowier than normal winter with snow falling from mid-December through mid-January. They predict near normal precipitation and that the coldest periods will be in mid- to late December, early to mid-January, and mid- to late January.  Those periods obviously coincide with their snow forecasts.

This prediction is a bit different from the prediction from the Office of the Washington State Climatologist;

the state climatologist is predicting warmer than normal temperatures for the state as a whole including western Washington.  The problem with the state prediction is that it sometimes tends to be couched in a less than confident manner, as in the rainfall prediction for western Washington as “equal chances of below, equal to, or above normal precipitation;”  safe, perhaps, helpful not so much.

In any case, out here on the Peninsula, we have a phenomenon called the rain shadow that makes any prediction of the weather that much more difficult.  The rain shadow is a sort of elliptical area on the eastern side of the Olympic Mountain range that affects precipitation in the area from Port Angeles east to Port Townsend and on to parts of Whidbey Island.  The rain shadow means that while Forks gets nearly 120 inches of rain a year, Sequim and Port Townsend average less than 20 inches a year.   Snowfalls are correspondingly small with Port Townsend at only about 2 and a half inches a year.  Note also though that Brinnon and south Jefferson County fall outside the rain shadow and get much more precipitation and snowfall.

In short, whether the Old Farmer’s Almanac is right or the Washington State Climatologist is right, we are fortunate to be in an area of the state that has relatively less bad weather and precipitation than the rest. While we can’t know for certain what lies ahead, we do know we need to be prepared for it, so in the next several blogs we will put together some information to help you winterize your home and auto for this part of our state.

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