Cliff Mass: No ‘snowpocalypse’ on horizon for Seattle metro area

Dec 15, 2022, 2:56 PM
A man crosses a road on skis in the Ballard neighborhood after a large storm blanketed the city with snow on February 9, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

While rumors of a White Christmas are swirling around the Seattle metro area, Cliff Mass, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington (UW), is expecting only a mild dusting and thinks it’s dangerous to report differently.

“You may see a little bit of light snow, but nothing much more than that, except if you’re in just the right place, we will get colder next week,” said Mass on the Jason Rantz Show on AM 770 KTTH. “So a fairly strong Arctic airmass is moving down into the central part of the United States. Some of that cold air gets across the Rockies into eastern Washington, and then even less gets into us.”

For western Washington, there is only a 7% chance of lowland snow by Christmas annually, according to the National Weather Service, but this year, paired with a cold front coming into western Washington Saturday, the chances for Christmas snow significantly increased following this weekend’s forecast.

Cliff Mass: Here’s where Seattle-area snow will hit this weekend

“For several days, it’ll be colder than normal. High temperatures are only up in the mid-30s and dropping down into the 20s at night in the lowlands,” Mass said. “So, it’s going to get cold, there’s no doubt about that. The snow, it’s just not right to get the big snowstorm, I’m afraid. It won’t be snowpocalypse, so I apologize.”

Mass described this weekend as having only some moisture in the air and expects just a few snow showers on Sunday.

And despite the early returns for snow this year, don’t expect it to fall or stick in the same way.

“That time, we at least had precipitation. The big issue there was we were on the edge between rain and snow,” Mass said. “So we were just over the edge and got several inches. It doesn’t look like that now.”

Mass wanted to stress that there is still quite a bit of uncertainty, recommending Saturday to have a much more accurate forecast.

A forecast just one to three days ahead is “really quite good” in terms of accuracy, according to Mass, and even three-to-five-day forecasts are “substantially skilled” in predicting the weather.

“But when you get from five to seven days, our skill starts fading. And seven to ten days, it fades a lot,” Mass said. “But at least we, for instance, saw that the cold air was going to come in two weeks ago. We saw it then. So we do have some sort of general skill seven to ten days out, but it’s much, much less than one-to-three days.”

Mass, who authors a Weather Blog on Blogger, recently took to the Internet to sound off on The Seattle Times’ consistent misinformation regarding climate change.

His most recent piece, titled “More Climate Misinformation and Factual Errors in the Seattle Times. Should You Care?” opens with the line: “Perhaps I should not read the Seattle Times anymore.”

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“I’m just totally frustrated with the climate coverage in The Seattle Times, much of it is problematic. I mean, outright errors or hyping or exaggerating things,” Mass said. “Occasionally, a story is ok, but there’s just so much bad information there. Their recent article talks about the Quinault tribe on the coast and how they’re moving one of their settlements away from the coast, well, that makes good sense with tsunamis. That’s it — a good idea.

“But The Seattle Times was headlining climate change that they are moving away because of climate change, sea levels are rising, and storms are getting stronger,” Mass continued. “And what I point out is, that’s just not true.”

Mass cited that most sea levels are going down along the coast, and there’s no statistical validity to worry about storms increasing.

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Cliff Mass: No ‘snowpocalypse’ on horizon for Seattle metro area