Of pineapples and fire hoses
AWIPS images of the GOES-11 6.7 µm water vapor channel (above) showed a very long and well-defined plume of moisture streaming northeastward from just north of the Hawaiian Islands to the Pacific Northwest on 07 January – 08 January 2009. The National Weather Service forecast office in Seattle, Washington said it best:
AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SEATTLE WA
340 PM PST WED JAN 7 2009
.SHORT TERM…HEAVY RAIN AND FLOODING EVENT IS UNDERWAY. A LONG PLUME OF MOISTURE EMANATING FROM WEST OF HAWAII IS CURRENTLY POINTED AT SW WA/NW ORE. THE AXIS OF THE MOISTURE PLUME HAS BEEN SLOWLY SAGGING SOUTH TODAY…THOUGH EVERYWHERE HAS GOTTEN AT LEAST SOME AMOUNT OF RAIN. SOME PEOPLE REFER TO THIS PATTERN AS THE PINEAPPLE EXPRESS…WHILE OTHERS CALL IT A METEOROLOGICAL FIRE HOSE. BOTH TERMS APPLY HERE. 850-700 MB WIND FLOW IS MORE WESTERLY THAN WITH MOST HEAVY RAIN EVENTS (AS OPPOSED TO SOUTHWESTERLY)…SO RAIN IS FOCUSING A BIT HARDER THAN USUAL ON RIVERS WITH HEADWATERS IN THE CASCADES. THIS FLOODING EVENT COULD HAVE MANY PARALLELS TO THE NOVEMBER 2006 EVENT.
AWIPS images of both the CIRA Blended Total Precipitable Water product (above) and the CIMSS MIMIC Total Trecipitable Water product (below) showed that TPW values were generally in the 30-40 mm (1.2-1.6 inches) range within this moisture plume. With the larger areal coverage of the CIMSS MIMIC TPW product display, you can get a better feel for the fact that this moisture plume had connections to the rich moisture contained within the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) as it began to surge northeastward on 06 January.
Heavy rainfall amounts included 9.30 inches at June Lake in Oregon and 9.05 inches at Wickersham in Washington — and as a result, there were widespread reports of flooding, mudslides, and avalanches as this plume of moisture moved inland and interacted with the topography of the region (shown below). In addition, strong winds were reported in parts of the region (with a wind gust of 130 mph at the top of Magic Mile Ski Lift in Timberline, Oregon).