Schools closed across Washington State as Winter snowstorms hammered the Northwest again as a larger weather system wreaked havoc in the region and brought snow to Hawaii.
Seattle’s metro area had already been hit by 3 snow storms this month and the National Weather Service reports that Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has received 14.1 ins of snow so far in February, more than 2X the annual average and the snowiest month in more than 30 years.
The storm that hit Seattle Sunday dumped up to 4 ins of snow and forecasters said more snow or rain was expected Monday and Tuesday as a lingering jet stream drives cold arctic air into the normally temperate region, and part of a larger cycle that has also driven snow as far away as Hawaii.
In the state capital of Olympia, lawmakers cancelled meetings and the University of Washington in Seattle and Washington State University in Pullman called off classes.
In Northern California, Humboldt County beaches that have not had snow in more than 15 years received a dusting and blizzard conditions caused whiteouts on mountain roads.
“You’ve got storm after storm sliding down the sweet spot to produce low-level snow,” said a meteorologist at Seattle’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration office. He described weather systems pulling cold air from Canada and combining it with moist air pulled east from the Pacific Ocean.
When snow does fall in the area, normally enough warm air is drawn from over the Pacific to melt it soon after it falls, but the steady stream of cold air has kept normally-mild western Washington colder than normal and let the snow build up.
An atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington, said the larger system at work was also driving warm temperatures in Alaska and unusual weather in Hawaii.
With a North/South ridge of high pressure situated off the coast of Washington and Canada has the cold air being drawn southward inland is being replaced by warm air moving north offshore, driving temperatures up in parts of Alaska even as Seattle freezes.
And the cold, low-pressure air separated from the main flow is also drifting further west. Known as a Kona Low, the system caused unusual snow on the island of Maui.
Hawaii officials said the blanket of snow at Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area is likely the first for any state park. Polipoli is at 6,200 ft, and is possibly the lowest elevation snow ever recorded in the state.
In Washington, State February’s total already sets the month as the snowiest single month in the state since November of Y 1985, and the snowiest February on record.
Figures for the state are usually taken from the nearby airport, despite a 7 year gap at the site in the 1990’s. The cold snap stands out as an anomaly amid a trend of Winters in Washington State becoming more mild since as early as Y 1900.
Not every decade is warmer than the previous, some mid-Century years had produced snow records, but Winters have been trending warmer to date, that may have reversed this Winter
Elsewhere around the US the Midwest braced for more ice storms.