Washington's Coast
Washington State Department of Ecology

WAVES
EROSION
 
STORMS
weather
El Niño
beach change
Weather extremes

"A hard rain all the last night we again get wet the rain continues at intervales all day. Wind verry high from SW and blew a storm all day ...and our situation is truly a disagreeable one."
 
--- William Clark, Lewis & Clark Expedition, Monday, Nov. 11, 1805
 

The Aleutian Low and the Pacific High
The Aleutian Low:
Storm Factory

Large cyclonic systems sweep down from the Alaska panhandle, bringing storms to Washington's coast. Cyclonic systems sometimes line up, one after the other, causing stormy weather on Washington's coast for weeks. Storms spawned off the coasts of Japan and Siberia circle around the Pacific High into the Aleutian Low, rekindling old storms and starting new ones.
Ocean Shores, following winds of 100 miles per hour Ocean Shores, following winds of 100 miles per hour from the south combined with high tide, March 1999.
Winter storms
Severe storms hit Washington's coast during the winter, bringing heavy rains, strong winds, and high waves. Storms blow in about 70 to 100 inches of rain per year, the heaviest precipitation on the continent north of Guatemala. Coastal storm winds regularly top 40 miles per hour. The annual peak speed of 55 miles per hour can topple chimneys, utility lines, and trees.
  • Highest winds recorded on Washington's coast
    150 mph, North Head, January, 1941
    94 mph, Tatoosh Island, November, 1942
  • Wind speeds exceed
    55 mph every year
    76 mph every 5 years
    83 mph every 10 years
    92 mph every 25 years
    100 mph every 50 years
    108 mph every 100 years
  • 1962 Columbus Day storm
    150 mph gusts reported in Naselle
    46 people killed
    15 billion board feet of west coast timber lost
    Total property damage: $235 million
Storm surges
  • Winds push water into shore
    When wind blows toward the shore, water can pile up. Winds can raise water levels above predicted tides.
  • Low pressure raises sea level
    Low atmospheric pressure can cause the ocean to mound up, raising the water level.
  • 1999 storm surge
    On March 3, 1999, a storm surge of 4.6 feet, accompanied by 49.7 mile an hour winds, caused widespread coastal flooding. Wave heights exceeded 29.5 feet for over 5 hours, peaking at 34.8 feet. At Ocean Shores, several houses were damaged and a public restroom was destroyed.
Fog
  • Summer haze
    During the summer, fog often moves in along Washington's coast. As the Pacific High, an area of high pressure, cools off over the Pacific Ocean, low stratus clouds form. At night, these clouds move inland as fog.
  • One of the foggiest spots in the world
    Cape Dissapointment, at the mouth of the Columbia River, is one of the foggiest places in the world, with an average of 2,552 hours or 106 days of fog per year.
Long Beach Clamcam
Current weather conditions via web cam on Long Beach, Washington.

Weather terms
 
Advection fog
Cool moist air that moves inland from the ocean at night and turns to haze throughout the day.
 
Aleutian Low
A large area of low pressure on or over the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. Temperate and polar winds meet here, creating major action for air circulation in the western hemisphere.
 
Cyclone
Winds blowing counterclockwise around a low pressure area in the Northern Hemisphere.
 
Gale
A sustained wind of 39 to 54 miles per hour (34 to 47 knots).
 
Hurricane force wind
Sustained winds of 74 miles per hour (64 knots) or more.
 
Pacific High
A large high pressure system located in the Eastern North Pacific.
 
Storm surge
Abnormally high, wind-driven surf that rises above normal high tide or high surf levels and inundates coastal areas, eroding beaches and destroying shoreline roads and structures.
 
Squall line
A distinct line of instability, usually bringing turbulence, wind, and heavy rain.
 

Coastal Marine Weather Forecast, National Weather Service Shore, offshore and high seas forecasts. Also includes links to buoy data.
 
Washington Marine Forecast, north and central coast, National Weather Service Marine forecast for the northern and central Washington coast including the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.
 
Current Conditions, Forecasts, Watches and Warnings for South Coast, WA, NOAA Forecast and current conditions for Washington's south coast.
 
Causes of Variability in the Aleutian Low, NOAA Climatological studies of the Aleutian Low.
 
Tides Online, NOAA Storm surge warnings. Water level and meteorological data along the projected path of severe storms.

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