During a recent hospital stay, when his attention was not diverted by ancient reruns of “Gunsmoke,” “Bonanza” and “I Love Lucy” or his perception clouded by a hydrocodone-induced haze, your weatherperson noticed the small portion of the sky visible to him through a window. Not once did it vary even one iota in its leaden appearance over the course of several days.
Fortunately — for we who follow the media, at least — we have been the recent beneficiaries of a few news items to enliven the drab, gray and nearly sunless mien of November.
Your forecaster must state categorically that he is not in any way connected to “l’affaire Petraeus,” unlike so many others who have been ensnared in that sticky and far-reaching web. He does however admit to having briefly considered at one time sending a slightly suggestive email to another well-known Floridian — the Weather Channel’s comely on-air meteorologist Stephanie Abrams — to whom he composed a message several Chanukahs ago inquiring as to her possible participation in a round or two of “strip dreidl” as a means of heightening the festive holiday atmosphere.
Luckily, in the less inebriated, brighter and more lucid light of the following morning, he thought better of the idea. Doubtless its actual transmission would have done precious little to advance his already badly faltering meteorology career.
This brief digression is in reality nothing more than a pitiably transparent attempt to avoid the subject at hand: our doggedly cloudy, wet weather which is not at all unusual for November.
In fact, the last half of the month is climatologically the wettest two weeks of the wettest month of the entire year, so no big surprise there. As of Monday, Walla Walla had accumulated just about half of its normal monthly rainfall total of 2.48 inches — with a good possibility of considerably more to come in the next 10 days.
Our most recent bout of rain and wind was brought to us courtesy of a particularly strong low-level jet stream that has been directing waves of wet weather across Washington state from off the Pacific. As southeastern Washington has been on the south side of this jet, mild air advected into our area on southerly winds has driven our afternoon maximum temperatures into the upper 50s — about 10 to 12 degrees above normal for the date.
The high wind event late Sunday and Monday was the result of a very steep pressure gradient created as a wave of low pressure rode along this jet. The pronounced disparity between higher pressure to the south and lower pressure to the north caused strong southerly winds gusting up to 60 mph as the atmosphere attempted to equalize the large pressure differences occurring over a relatively short distance. The net effects of this included the toppling of outdoor furniture and trash cans, the final denuding of our deciduous trees and vines and the transfer of those fallen leaves from your yard to the neighbor’s — or vice versa.
With the persistence of this zonal (west-to-east) flow, periodic shots of rain will sweep over our area until Thursday, which now looks like a mostly fair weather day, much to the chagrin of a certain 401K diminished by an ill-considered wager offered here last week.
That hiatus would appear to be brief. Rain could return to the Valley as early as Thanksgiving night or early Friday morning and into next weekend.
A possible change to a more north-to-south (meridional) flow would bring a fairly dramatic change to our current regime by promoting an incursion of very cold Canadian air into the region towards the middle or end of next week. The 16-day Global Forecast System has already alluded to this possibility in a couple of its recent model runs that indicate nighttime lows tumbling into the single digits around the 29th or 30th.
‘Tis the season, and your forecaster will be fitting his crutch-tips with skate blades in order to take full advantage of the impending icy turn.
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 email@example.com.