‘Mixed bag’ of weather on the horizon

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Your weatherperson celebrated the first weekend of summer by enjoying the mostly sunny and seasonably warm weather from the comfort of his favorite seat on the couch. He was intently focused — as were many others — on events unfolding in Brazil, where a wildly entertaining World Cup provided a seemingly endless supply of chills and thrills. In between corner kicks and brief lapses in the action for “injured” players writhing in agony on the pitch, the suddenly rejuvenated Orioles were pounding the daylights out of the much-reviled Yankees, making for a most satisfying — if not terribly productive — Sunday.

Before tackling this week’s weather, your forecaster must remind the annoyingly vocal legion of doubters out there that three weeks ago today in this very column he warned you of the possibility of an unusually heavy rain event that might occur between June 11 and June 18 to the tune of 0.86 inches of rain. (You can look it up!) And what happened last Monday evening through early Wednesday morning? A total of 0.82 inches fell at the Walla Walla Regional Airport as a vigorous Pacific front and low pressure system lingered damply over Southeast Washington, adding even more luster to your prognosticator’s already scintillating reputation. For a mere 10 dollars (cash only — no checks, please) in a self-addressed, stamped envelope, he will furnish you with the winning lotto numbers for this week with the usual caveat that past performance is not necessarily indicative of future returns.

The weather this week will feature a bit of a mixed bag of offerings as a series of relatively weak waves of low pressure move across our area with varying amounts of clouds and moisture. The first of these, today, will bring a modest chance of an afternoon shower or thunderstorm. But this activity will be widely scattered in nature, and the thundershowers should not be particularly strong if they do indeed occur, as the dynamics for such storms are lacking in terms of available moisture and atmospheric instability.

After a rather warm day on Monday, cooler air will begin to filter into the Walla Walla Valley on some gusty winds, and afternoon readings should trend downward as the week progresses, eventually falling into the high 70s by the weekend, 4 or 5 degrees under the normal highs for this time of year. There will be another chance of showers on Thursday with the passage of a second wave of low pressure — but again, dynamics are fairly weak, and the activity should be neither widespread nor severe.

In the midterm, the 16-day Global Forecast System offers a generally benign — if unremarkable — outlook for the end of the month and the first few days of July, with no summer heat waves on the horizon at this time. This is fine by your overly insulated forecaster, whose tolerance for hot weather has diminished precipitously since his sun-worshipping days in the Sonoran Desert at the University of Arizona in Tucson. There he made it a policy to never schedule classes during the prime tanning hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Unfortunately, the wisdom of that strategy was cast into considerable doubt as a result of both his somewhat damaged skin condition and his steadily declining grade-point average — the former of which still remains a concern even if the latter has long been forgotten.

In the long term, the good folks at the Climate Prediction Center in the great state of Maryland (“America in Miniature!”) continue to insist that the summer of 2014 will prove to be a hot and dry one for those of us here in the Pacific Northwest. In looking at the accumulated number of degree-days that agriculturists use to compare the relative warmth of growing seasons from year to year, this year is tracking incredibly close to last year. That year was one of the warmest seen here in some time, and proved to be a fabulous one for grape growers and winemakers throughout the Valley who were able to ripen all their fruit without difficulty — unlike 2010 and 2011 which were quite cool and seriously problematic from both a disease and ripening standpoint. Our local grapes will enjoy the moderate heat in the extended outlook, as will your increasingly corpulent columnist.

A lifelong fan of both the weather and the Baltimore Orioles, Jeff Popick is an instructor at the Center for Enology and Viticulture at Walla Walla Community College and manages the school’s teaching vineyard. Send your questions and comments to him at jeffrey.popick@wwcc.edu.

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