The “How” and “Why” of Winter-time Climate Change Tornadoes in Washington State

Port Orchard, WA – Winter-time Climate Change Tornado – Dateline 18DEC18.  Look at the bottom Earth, the “Warm Arctic” model. That warm air or high moves up from Baja California as the Arctic Vortex collapses – warm air hits the cool, dry air of fresh, Arctic Vortex Collapse.  Tornadoes become possible with shearing forces – like the Olympics – that starts or accelerates rotation.  This shearing motion must be spot-on to generate a tornado. Wind shear over the Olympics has much to do with it.

This must be the “simplified edition.” I am no atmospheric scientist, nor one of local stature as Prof. Dr. Cliff Mass (UW-Seattle).  Every single one of my friends in the Northwest, who are NOT scientists, gravitate to his view:  As my friends say, “Of course global climate change is “real”.  We’re “green and ‘into’ sustainability,” but real change is far-off.  Why talk about as if it will occur in 10-20 years? “We’re so comfortable HERE. Property prices are high. I have a great job. Calm down,” they say.


“No one should criticize my colleagues at the National Weather Service (NWS) for not forecasting this event earlier in the day.” – Prof. Dr. Cliff Mass on the Port Orchard tornado 18DEC18.


As a physicist, I look for forms, physical events, and attempt in my own poor way to understand the interaction and relationships between things in what they show us about the natural world.  I look at how Prof Dr. Richard Feynman dissected the NASA Administration as the root cause of the STS Challenger disaster.  His role was not to assign blame, but to critique NASA and the Space Shuttle Program so such a disaster would not happen again.

Why shouldn’t we criticize ‘your colleagues’ at the NWS?”  They have – most of them – well-paying jobs to forecast weather.  Most of them backed the installation of Doppler Radar to detect storms just like occurred at great expense. If they fail to forecast the weather to save life or property, should we say nothing?

We cannot blame them, in the end. No one is to blame, but we can critique their performance, right?  It is one thing to say we cannot criticize.  It is quite another to assign blame.


However, what is central – and was not always identifiably true here on the Western edge of the coastal ranges – are the effects that global warming and climate change are beginning their onslaught across the Pacific Northwest. 

At some point, the scientist Prof. Dr. Cliff Mass must summarize “Truth from Facts.”

Screen Shot 2018-12-19 at 11.30.21 AM


The fact that negative Arctic oscillations allows these air masses to meet over the Olympics in the first place – in Winter – is as historic as the tornado itself.  Previously, there was no indication that warming on the Pacific Coast of North America (PC) was part of the global trend, or was anything more than some routine El Niño-type event.  It could not be pinned-down as part of a general rise in global temperature.

In other words,  global warming of the atmosphere affected all parts of the US, except the West Coast.  The fact that no one could decisively pin down direct effects in the atmosphere of global warming on the West Coast led to a view that tends to blind oneself to events as the occur and away from the absolute fact that global warming is GLOBAL.  Both this view and the facts could not endure for long, of course. 

No meteorologist in their wildest imagination could envisage an EF2 tornado over Kitsap County…in Winter. That is why we have Doppler Radar, built at great expense. To see the unknown and unexpected.


Prof Dr. Cliff Mass does not deny Global Warming nor Climate Change and he notes, they are anthropogenic in origin.  He just cannot find it in the atmosphere or air masses above the oceans and seas, definitively,  but only in the oceans and sea-ice, as should be clear in his blog: 

Cliff Mass’ Weather Blog 

Cliff Mass takes issue every time someone points to local extreme weather and says “that’s caused by climate change.” He discussed climate change versus extreme weather at length in a recent blog post.

“The extremes we’ve seen in Seattle, around the region and even across the U.S. — most of them anyway — are caused by anomalous weather patterns, not climate change,”  Mass said.  “And there’s absolutely no reason to believe that’s due to global warming,” Mass said.


Note:  I write and re-write continually. All my early editions are stored.  As you can see, the first edition a blog is emotional. As facts are gathered, we come to a final edition.

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