Upside-down weather pattern — it was warmer in Olympics than at sea level — ends with rain today

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — For the past 12 days, if residents of the North Olympic Peninsula lowlands wanted to warm up a bit, it was best to head to higher elevations.

That plan, however, won’t work as well starting today, according to the National Weather Service.

A huge high-pressure weather system squatting over Washington state has kept cold air in the lower elevations and warmer air higher up in the state’s mountain ranges, including the Olympics, said Andy Haner, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle, on Tuesday.

“Cold air is heavy and dense,” Haner said, “and it tends to just sit there until something moves it out.”

By this morning, however, the temperature inversion already will have begun to dissipate, Haner said, with predicted rains and winds over the Peninsula expected to mix up the sunken cold air with the higher warm like a plastic stirrer blending cold creamer into hot coffee.

“By [Tuesday night], Hurricane Ridge will be back to being colder than Port Angeles,” Haner said Tuesday.

Haner said those feeling less than themselves because of stagnant air hovering over the Peninsula no longer need to fret, as change is blowing in the wind.

“If folks are feeling under the weather, a change in the weather is finally coming,” Haner said.

“By late night [tonight}, this 12-day-long pattern will be a memory.”

Over these past 12 days, high temperatures at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park have hovered in the 40s and even reached 51 degrees the past three days, according to National Weather Service data.

Meanwhile, highs at various measurement sites across the North Olympic Peninsula’s lowlands have not broken 42 degrees over that same time period.

The higher temperatures at higher elevations have been a trend across Washington state and the western United States, Haner said, with the Paradise area of Mount Rainier National Park — roughly the same 5,400-foot elevation as Hurricane Ridge — seeing 60-degree highs over the past week or so.

“That’s what they do on a typical July day,” Haner said.

Haner reported this most recent high-pressure system is the second-longest lasting since 1948, according to Weather Service data.

A system that stuck around for 15 days in January 1963 still holds the top spot.

“Previously, the second prize was 11 days long [in 1991],” Haner said.

The high pressures system also seemed to send a fair number of Hurricane Ridge visitors up to skiing and snowshoeing trails surrounding the Ridge’s visitor’s center to enjoy the clear skies and sunshine over the weekend, Olympic National Park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said Tuesday.

Maynes, who visited the Ridge herself this weekend, said the parking lot was so full on Saturday that Hurricane Ridge Road had to be closed for a time to allow visitors to leave and parking spaces to open.

That kind of closure isn’t rare for this time of year, she added.

“Clear, sunny weather over Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend is a guarantee that they’re going to be a lot of people enjoying the Ridge,” Maynes said.

“It was so clear and beautiful.”

The relatively warmer temperatures apparently melted some of the snow.

Haner reported Jan. 15 snow levels at Hurricane Ridge at 93 inches.

Tuesday’s measurement was 88 inches.

“But 88 inches is still a good snowpack,” Haner said.

“There still should not be any bare ground up there.”

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 22. 2013 6:02PM
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