Seattle's weather in 2011 was persistently cold and clammy. It canceled spring and stole half of summer, then dried up December snow play — weather-wise, 2011 was one long, passive-aggressive, bad meteorological mood.
Ah yes, 2011: the year that pouted.
Persistently cold, clammy weather canceled spring and stole half of summer, then dried up December snow play — weather-wise, 2011 was one long, passive-aggressive, bad meteorological mood. Devoid of drama — we had no epic floods or tempests — it was a year that nonetheless left its mark.
The defining characteristic of 2011 was stuck weather patterns that locked us in the fridge all spring and half of summer, then walled off our winter storms most of December.
“It was the year of persistence,” notes Cliff Mass, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington.
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Remember our summer that wasn’t? Even in Seattle, sun-envy central, 2011 was one for the record books.
Cold? How about our second-coldest period on record from March 21 to June 21, at an average temperature of just about 52 degrees, about 5 degrees below normal.
Cloudy? You bet: From March through May, there was not a single day of full sun all day, and only one in June. That’s a third of the year without a full-on nice day.
It wasn’t until August that we got more than a week of sunshine. September turned out to be the prize, with warm sunny days at last, but heck, by then summer was mostly over.
It was so bad it got funny: The weather station at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport logged the coldest April ever, going back to 1891, when record-keeping began.
The wet spring meant a late flood season, with the Snoqualmie River in Carnation reaching major flood stage on April 1, the latest flood there ever. And good luck hiking: Lingering snow in the high country set records. Paradise at Mount Rainier still had 44 inches of snow on Aug. 15, the most ever recorded on that date.
Yet after all that cold and wet when it wasn’t welcome, the snow didn’t come when we wanted it.
After the predictions of a tempestuous La Niña year with major dumpage in the mountains, December started out the driest on record. Snow was so scarce, even sledding was ruled out Christmas week at Mount Rainier National Park.
Then nearly 2 inches of rain in most places in Western Washington doused hopes for a record. The slopes got a good dumping.
Yet it still ended up a dry December, with some typically soggy places, such as weather stations on the western side of the Olympics, recording rainfall more than 5 inches below normal.
It was a year with its share of oddities.
The Tohoku earthquake in Japan on March 11 generated a tsunami in Western Washington’s coastal waters the next day, albeit too tiny to matter. Westport saw waves up to 1 ½ feet, while other locations, including Puget Sound tide gauges, recorded waves about that height or less.
Atmospheric pressure was freakishly high at Sea-Tac airport on Dec. 1, smashing records back to 1948.
There was also weather-related tragedy. On Jan. 16, winds clocked 40 mph and a 66-year-old Washington State Department of Transportation worker was killed when a tree fell on Highway 203 south of Carnation, hitting him and his truck.
On Feb. 1, a skier near Snoqualmie Pass was buried and killed when a cornice collapsed.
On March 27, near Stevens Pass, a snowboarder was killed in an avalanche.
On April 6, two backcountry skiers were injured in an avalanche just below the summit of Snoqualmie Mountain.
As for the forecast, more normal weather is back on track. Rain is expected on and off through the week — what could be more Seattle? And in the mountains, it’s out with the old, and in with the new: There’s fresh snow since Thursday — including 2 feet of sparkling powder at Mount Baker.