By Alicia Lawver
Hailing originally from Long Island, New York, Seattle meteorologist Cliff Mass has had a fascination for intense meteorological events since he was a child. Thunderstorms. Snowstorms. And, of course, snow days.
“When I first got here, I quickly realized the weather was very different from the East Coast,” said Cliff. He found Puget Sound’s intense gradients in weather from one locality to the next fascinating—how there could be 150 inches of rain on one side of the Olympics, and only 15 inches in Sequim.
Lured back to the University of Washington, his PhD alma mater, by a position at the University’s renowned Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Cliff now happily calls Puget Sound home and is especially biased toward places with water views. Favorite Seattle spots include: Carkeek Park, Richmond Beach … anywhere he can enjoy a view of the water with an Olympics backdrop. “I love to see the Olympics in the background,” said Cliff. “One of the best views in the world.”
Cliff also appreciates easy access to the natural environment and enjoys hiking, cross-country skiing, running, and pretty much any outdoor activity. “I can be in the forests in half an hour, or on the Sound. I love the fact that nature’s so close.”
Uniquely Puget Sound
Mention blue skies and you’ll likely get a comment about high pressure. Ask about what weather phenomenon is most unique to this area, and Cliff points directly to the Puget Sound convergence zone.
“Around here is fascinating for its differences,” Cliff explained, noting how locations just a few miles apart can have very different weather. “There could be a band of heavy showers and clouds in the north part of the Sound, while being sunny and much warmer in the South Sound.”
While the Sound plays a big role in moderating local temperature throughout the year, Cliff points out that our location between the Olympics and Cascades mountain ranges also influences the weather. “We’re mild because we have two mountain barriers protecting us,” he said. “They block a lot of bad weather.”
Most of the Puget Sound watershed lies in the rain shadow of the Olympics. This is why Seattle gets about 37 inches of rain per year, while the coast gets more than 60 inches. “We’re protected a great degree by the mountains,” said Cliff.
Can’t get enough
Is it hard to appreciate the pure beauty of the weather when you know so much about it? Not really, assures Cliff.
“Does the fact that you understand something make it less beautiful? If you’re a doctor, do you have less appreciation for the beauty of the human body?” ponders Cliff. “I don’t think so. I think it adds to it. You understand the complexity more. It enhances it.”
Get to know more about local weather trends on Cliff’s blog.
Want to see what the weather is elsewhere in Puget Sound?
Puget Sound is a special place. Did you know proper disposal of chemicals is one of the ways to help protect it?