Take that, grandpa: Seattle on pace to have coldest February on record


    A few Seattle residents go out strolling amid a snowstorm on Capitol Hill on Feb. 10, 2019 (Photo: Tim Durkan Photography)

    SEATTLE -- With over 20 inches of snow this month, it's already the snowiest February on record at Sea-Tac airport. But now you might have something to brag over your grandpa's childhood -- you know, all the stories of how back in his day, he used to walk in the snow barefoot uphill both ways and then had to walk from Bainbridge Island to Seattle across a frozen Puget Sound?

    But Seattle is now on a reasonable pace to shatter the record for coldest February on record. Of any February. Back to 1894.

    Colder than Feb. 1950 whose first three days of the month had record lows of 1, 8 and 8 degrees. Even colder than February 1916 which had the all-time record blizzard with 35.4 inches of snow in the month's first 8 days.

    Through Feb. 13, Seattle's average temperature was 33.9 degrees -- an amazing 9.2 degrees below normal. And it's a far cry from the coldest February on record so far, which is 35.6 degrees in 1956.

    Sure, Februarys have begun cold before. The National Weather Service in Seattle says through Feb. 12, this was only the third coldest start to a February, behind 1949 and 1989, which was at a bone-chilling 29.2 degrees.

    1989 had the first week with lows of 20 degrees or lower, topped by a 7 degree low on Feb. 4. Groundhog Day came on the heels of 5.8 inches of snow with a high of 18 and a low of 11! But by the 9th, they were at 51 and would spend the second half of the month fairly close to normal with highs in the 50s amid a 10 day rain streak. 1989 would go on to finish 2nd coldest at 35.9 degree average temperature.

    1916 also had frigid-ish start although their feet of snow came with reasonable temperatures: highs were in the low 30s and lows were in the upper 20s as nearly 30"of snow fell over three days. But by Valentine's Day, it would hit 58, the first of five more days that month that would reach 58 or warmer. Slushmageddon, indeed! 1916 would go on to finish in... 50th place! 1917, 1918 and 1919 had colder Februarys.

    Even 1950, coming off the coldest January/month on record (24.9 degrees) and those first three days in single digits, they would go on to have several days in the 50s once they reached the 13th. They would finish in... 21st place.

    But 2019? Well on its way to No. 1! Why? Because unlike those other years, 50 degrees seems like a pipe dream for us to reach in the coming weeks.

    While big lowland snowstorms are out of the forecast for at least the next several days, the chilly pattern isn't budging. A huge ridge of high pressure has been locked out over the Gulf of Alaska for the past two weeks, which is the prime spot to bring cold air to the Pacific Northwest. The ridge pushes the jet stream way up into the northern polar regions in northern Alaska, then shoots that cold air down the backside of the ridge into British Columbia. Williams Lake, in central B.C., has spent the past 10 days ranging between +10 and -20F. When storms come by from the north, it pulls in that cold air from B.C. into Western Washington and that's where the snow and below normal temperatures have come from.

    But in a very unusual twist, this pattern is not budging. A week or two locked in a cold spell is not unheard of. But 4 weeks? Record. Breaking.

    Local meteorologist Jay Albrecht tweeted this forecast which depicts expected temperature deviation from normal for the next two weeks. Note the purples and blues denoting temperatures 6-15 degrees below normal continuing to sag out of B.C. into the Northwest for the rest of the month!

    How cold for Seattle? University of Washington Atmospheric Sciences professor Cliff Mass has done the math and using the Weather.com temperature projections over the next 14 days, calculated that our average high temperature for February would forecast out just under 34.2 degrees -- destroying the all-time record by more than a full degree, which in weather climate world is like a 30 point blowout in basketball. It means we could replace 4 actual days with 4 days with a high of 65 and a low of 41 and it'd still break the record.

    Here's a snippet of the European model forecasting temperature for the next 10 days in Seattle -- note our normal high is 51 -- it's not even near the top of the chart legend and the red line indicating high temperature never gets close.

    European model showing predicted temperatures in Seattle over the next 10 days (via WeatherBell, Inc.)

    Those temperatures do look warm enough to keep major lowland snow events off the table, but still, anytime we set all time cold records is one for the memory banks. Something to brag about to your grandkids about if you can't already.


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