weather and climate

JT, Flickr Creative Commons

If you have asthma or heart disease, you know the quality of the air you breathe is very important: airborne particles can have a big impact on human health. That’s why researchers at Washington State University are looking into how climate change might affect air quality.

Courtney Flatt

Mountain snowpack is still above normal throughout most of Washington — even with higher- than-normal temperatures this February. But warming weather could cause problems later this spring.

Estela Caballero / http://nwpublicradio.tumblr.com/

It’s February, the month of sunny skies, warm air, and spring breezes. Wait… that’s not right, is it? But it reached 78 degrees in Long Beach this week. And we can expect highs as much as 15 degrees above average across the state.

This could be bad news, coming on the heels of last winter’s drought, except that Washington saw above-normal snowpack this year. Making this even more unusual? It’s an El Nino year, which typically means warm, dry weather.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/national/201513

Two thousand fifteen was officially the warmest year ever recorded in Washington state.

Washington State University meteorologist Nic Loyd says last year’s average temperature was 50 degrees. The yearly average is 46.1.

“The consistency of abnormal warmth throughout the year was remarkable,” Loyd says.

Heavy rains in the lowlands and heavy snow in the mountains are making holiday travel tricky.

U.S. Highway 12 at White Pass is still closed to all but local residents both east and west. The state’s Department of Transportation is working to clear three rockslides and one washout. But there is still no estimate for reopening the highway.

Oregon Department of Transportation / Associated Press

Tillamook County declared an emergency Wednesday after storms triggered several landslides and widespread flooding on coastal roads.

Highway 101 is closed in Tillamook and several other locations.

County Commissioner Tim Josi said authorities have had to close roads between 75 and 100 times.

"There’s just a lot of damage out there that needs to be dealt with," Josi said. "It’s going to be in the millions of dollars. So, it was pretty easy for us to declare a state of emergency and ask for assistance."

Downtown Kalama Inundated By Storm

Dec 9, 2015

Towns in Cowlitz County, Washington were badly hit by the storm Tuesday night. Floodwaters closed City Hall and other downtown buildings in Kalama.

OPB's Conrad Wilson said there’s a lot of work for crews to tackle.

“The main road through Kalama is still under several feet of water," Wilson said. "Businesses along the main drag here are closed. The water is starting to recede slowly, though, and road crews are out doing repairs where they can.”

Cowlitz County officials have declared a state of emergency there.

Copyright 2015 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Earlier this year, a strange milky rain fell across eastern Washington, Oregon, and northern Idaho. There was a lot of speculation about what caused it: volcanic ash, lake sediment, forest fires, even dust from Nevada.

Now, scientists at Washington State University say they’ve solved the mystery. The key clues? Salt and wind patterns.

louelke / Flickr

It was a warm winter in the Northwest this year. It certainly rained, and it was plenty gray, but there wasn’t much snow. And that means low snowpack. The Washington Department of Ecology says Washington snowpack is at 21 percent of normal levels.

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