Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Your weather forecaster had to muster some extra motivation to write this week's column given that the world is supposed to end at 3:11 a.m. Friday, according to an ancient Mayan calendar prediction of a cataclysmic event.
A galactic alignment of the Earth, Sun and a black hole called Sagittarius A is proposed as one possible doomsday scenario. A second revolves around a shift that would cause a reversal of the north and south geomagnetic poles.
These and other similar prophecies are interpretations of hieroglyphs engraved on a stone found in Tortuguero, Mexico, left by a Mayan ruler whose sour outlook on life may have been tied directly to a battlefield defeat suffered shortly before its composition.
Your weatherperson has found all of this end-of-the world-talk to be quite liberating in its own way.
Some have chosen to capitalize on the impending doomsday in the crassest sort of ways – like the Russian company offering an 'apocalypse kit' of food, medicine and a bottle of vodka (hopefully three liters, at least).
But your weatherperson has decided to use this unique opportunity to free himself of those annoying earthly bonds, like a job, bills, Christmas shopping and holiday family obligations, and will be spend his last few days comfortably ensconced on the couch watching "White Christmas," "Miracle on 34th Street" and "A Christmas Carol" (the Alastair Sim as Scrooge version) on AMC until the lights go out early Friday morning.
In such a circumstance, it might be tempting to ignore the weather in addition to those items mentioned above. But just on the slim chance the Mayans have made a serious error in their calculations, it would be prudent to give our next several days at least a cursory meteorological once-over.
Your forecaster will now remind those with a short memory of his own correct prophecy in last week's column regarding a significant winter weather event for the beginning of this week. A deep low pressure system brought widespread wind, rain and snow to large portions of Washington state.
And while this week began with spate of warnings concerning high winds, blizzard conditions and possible avalanches as the system moved west to east, locally it was just a tad too warm for a major snowstorm on the Valley floor. Indeed, temperatures actually rose Sunday night to 50 degrees as a result of the downsloping winds off the Blues.
But gusty winds approaching 50 mph driving occasional rain were more than sufficient to create an unpleasant winter tableau that had many dreaming not of a white Christmas but a balmy mid-May afternoon.
Not too far away, a combination of wind and heavy snow brought blizzard conditions to the Blue Mountains, where 6 to 12 inches of snow above the 3,500 foot level was whipped into drifts more than three times as deep by gusts exceeding 60 miles per hour. Similar conditions plagued both the Cascades and the Olympics in this far-reaching storm.
Rainfall totals by the time the system wound down late Monday were in the one-tenth- to one-quarter-inch range. A persistent southwesterly flow resulting from a trough of low pressure is forecast to linger for much of the week just off the Oregon coast and will send intermittent precipitation -- with the next one scheduled for Wednesday.
Nighttime temperatures may be low enough to cause a mixture of snow and rain. But liquid should be the predominant form of precipitation as we move through the week, with snow levels gradually lowering as cold Canadian air infiltrates into eastern Washington, especially this weekend.
Your obdurate prognosticator is sticking to his guns with respect to his white Christmas forecast -- though there might be more wishing and hoping than good science involved in this call. It is becoming increasingly likely, according to the 16-day Global Forecast System, that the week between Christmas and New Year will be a stormy one and perhaps cold enough to support some significant snow.
New Year's Eve looks like a decent bet. Provided, of course, the Mayans missed on their own forecast for Friday morning.
A lifelong fan of both the weather and the Baltimore Orioles, Jeff Popick is an instructor at the Enology and Viticulture Center at Walla Walla Community College and manages the school's teaching vineyard. Send your questions and comments to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.