This month is on pace to be the warmest January in the area's history.



Sunny in Hoquiam in January? Running in shorts around Green Lake? What to make of this weirdly warm start to 2010, with temperatures a rocking 7 degrees above average?

“That’s huge,” said Dana Felton, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service. Seattle temperatures have been above average almost every day this month.

“This could turn out to be the warmest January ever,” said Cliff Mass, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington. “We are definitely going to be in the top 10, and at this pace we are on track to be the warmest January in history.”

So far, only one record has been tied at SeaTac, at 56 degrees on Jan. 13. Wednesday’s high was 57, after a high of 60 on Tuesday.

But we’ve come close to breaking records on several other days, and the warm spell is not forecast to break any time soon, but for a tiny dip coming this weekend. Then, another big pineapple express is expected to rev up, bringing another warm blast of air — and maybe a record for Seattle.

The reason is simple: There is just no cold air anywhere in our region. It started early in the month with a grinding southwester that shoved all the cold air out of the Puget Sound area and even blew away Eastern Washington’s usual bowl full of cold air.

Then an easterly airflow pattern set in and is continuing to bring warm air our way. And it’s all going on in the larger context of an El Niño, which always means warmer, drier weather as the jet stream splits and sends our storms south.

That’s happening in spades right now.

“California is getting clobbered!” Mass said with barely hidden glee.

We already are ahead of normal as far as precipitation goes. But the moisture has been coming mostly as rain. Lack of snow in the mountains has snowpack watchers concerned.

“It’s been coming in low and slow; everything’s been getting stuck in the valley bottoms,” said Scott Pattee, a water-supply specialist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Mount Vernon.

“We have below average snowpack in the mountains just about everywhere but the Olympics,” Pattee said. “What we are getting is mostly what I call maintenance. We are barely getting enough to hold onto the numbers and we are losing ground, especially in central Puget Sound.”

It’s too early to tell yet though how the water supply will shape up for the year. A lot could change. As for Mass, he’s rooting for the record.

“I want the big one.”

Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2736 or lmapes@seattletimes.com