Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Is it still looking wet for this Memorial Day Weekend?

So a couple days have passed since our last blog post about the weather outlook for the Inland Northwest for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. Consequently, our confidence in what sort of weather to expect should be increasing. Recall that in the last post, there were suggestions that this could be a very wet weekend. In fact, perhaps the wettest Memorial Day weekend since 1997 and the second wettest on record (since 1970). So is that still the case?

Saturday 500 mb height
Above is the 500 mb map for Saturday from the GFS. This is a similar setup to the maps we explored earlier this week with a deep low centered over the Pacific Northwest. So is this GFS run an outlier or do other model agree with the solution?

4 different models showing 500 mb heights for Saturday (upper left model did not come in fully)
Here's is a look at 4 models compared to each other and they all show a low focused somewhere over the Pacific Northwest on Saturday. So where is this low on Sunday?

500 mb maps for Sunday
Again there is great agreement that there will be a low focused somewhere over the Pacific Northwest. The top 2 models take the low into southern Oregon, whereas the bottom two models drop the low into southern Oregon. Now, what the positioning of the low on Memorial Day?

500 mb maps for Monday
Again all the models keep the low over the region, however, the consensus is to drop the low south of the Washington/Oregon border.

So our confidence in this event is quite high. We are certain this low will form and move over portions of the Inland Northwest however how long it will remain over the area and where its precipitation  band will set up is the big question. Looking at the GFS for the Saturday and Sunday yields a significant northwest to southeast orientated band of precipitation.

48 hr precipitation amounts for Saturday-Sunday (latest model run )
This is quite similar to the previous model run we looked at a couple days ago(see below). Both model runs show a similarly oriented band of precipitation, however,  the latest version has the band a little farther to the west leaving places such as Sandpoint and Colville much drier than the previous forecast.

Rainfall forecast for Saturday and Sunday (Monday's model run)
Obviously wherever this band sets up will determine who gets a lot of rain and who doesn't. If we decide to consult another model solution it also shows a similar NW-SE band setting up, but this time it's displaced even further west. If this solution were to pan out even Spokane would miss out on the bulk of the rain as would the Silver Valley. 

Another Saturday-Sunday 48 hr precipitation forecast

So given these uncertainties it will be hard to pinpoint exactly where the band will take up residence. This is where ensemble model forecast can sometimes help to pinpoint the band (s) of heavy precipitation. So once again referring to the GEFS/NAEFS ensemble forecasts we see that it maintains a NW-SE oriented band of heavy precipitation as well. However the model has backed off from previous runs which suggested this would be a 99-99.9 percentile event for this time of year. Nonetheless the model still suggests this is potentially a 90-97 percentile event which is still significant. 

NAEFS/GEFS Ensemble 48 hr rainfall Sat-Sun

So what about the temperature forecast? We are holding onto our thoughts of hitting near 70° each day in Spokane this weekend, however if the band hits our area what will our temperature be? To say there is some uncertainty in this forecast would be an understatement. The 12z run of the GFS (dark blue line) has our high hitting the mid-70s that day. How about the 18z run of the GFS? A chilly mid-50s! That is about as uncertain as things can get. Its pretty much the same story for other parts of the Inland Northwest including Moses Lake (bottom meteogram)

Meteogram for Spokane
Meteogram for Moses Lake

This forecast remains a problematic one. Suffice it to say a good portion of the Inland Northwest is going to see a soggy beginning to the holiday weekend. Specifically where that will be, we still can't say with good confidence.  We expect the wettest day of the three-day weekend will be Saturday with a gradual improvement expected after that.

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