Cliff Mass: The Weather of the Pacific Northwest

Everybody talks about the weather, but how many of us are actually doing something about it? UW professor and KUOW regular Cliff Mass invites you to join the ranks of concerned amateur meteorologists in The Weather of the Pacific Northwest (UW Press, $29.95), which is packed full of colorful satellite images and computer maps. Speaking by phone last week, he told me, “You couldn’t get stuff like this 10 years ago.” Today, thanks to the U’s powerhouse atmospheric-sciences program, plus terabytes of data and computing power, “We really understand weather. Thirty years ago, we didn’t.” His book may be used to teach 101-level college courses, but it’s aimed at us, the weather-using public. There’s a sky-spotting index for armchair forecasters, easy-to-follow charts and diagrams, and some disaster lore to help illustrate what happens when low-pressure zones and jet stream deviations collide: like the 1979 Hood Canal Bridge sinking, the Magnolia mudslides of ’96, and the banner ski season of 1998–99. On which subject, says Mass, “It looks like it’s gonna be a neutral winter—neither La Niña or El Niño. There’s a higher probability of a really big snowstorm or windstorm.” But when it comes to subsequent City Light rates, salmon spawning, and crop watering, “This year we’ll probably have less snow.” Then there’s the matter of what to do with our newfound weather omniscience. Forecasts should soon include more, and more accurate, probabilities. And you’ll get those forecasts personalized, tailored, and delivered to your GPS-enabled smart phone. “It’ll be able to tell you,” says Mass. “We’re gaining the ability to know where the dangerous weather will be.” Seattle Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave., 386-4636, Free. 2 p.m. BRIAN MILLER

Sat., Nov. 15, 2008