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Reading the Northwest Weather

Pete Springer/OPB

Before I moved here from the Northeast, I’d been led to believe that Pacific Northwest weather was limited to a constant drizzle. (And my knowledge of the landscape could have been summed up by Bill Murray’s weather-man character in Groundhog Day: “Up in the Pacific Northwest, as you can see, they’re gonna have some very, very tall trees.”) But the last two years have been a lesson in extremes: flooding in Vernonia, the “Arctic Blast” of 2008, record heat a few months ago, and fogs and clouds and mists with subtle but never-ending variety. Folks back home in the Northeast sometimes talk as if they’ve cornered the market on four-season life. They’re wrong.

As we make the next seasonal switch — from sun to, yes, drizzle — we’re spending an hour talking about the peculiarities and mysteries of Northwest weather with Cliff Mass, the University of Washington atmospheric scientist who has written the book on it.

We’ll talk about how climate change is likely to affect daily life in the coming decades. And how we can all become savvier cloud readers and weather predictors. As well as some practical questions for the coming winter: how cold, and how wet, might it be? (This weekend’s meeting of the Oregon Chapter of the American Meteorological Society might produce some answers as well.)

What would you like to know from one of the region’s most prominent weather experts? What meteorological phenomena have flummoxed you? What are your best Northwest weather stories?


  • Cliff Mass: Professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington and author of The Weather of the Pacific Northwest
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