Showing posts from 2011

Skywatch Friday:  Between Storms

8:17 AM, Temp 49.2° F, Dew Point 48.4° F, Barometer 29.77 in Steady, Wind Calm, Humidity 97%

Between storms, there is a moment of peaceful moodiness in early morning over Skagit Bay.  Until Christmas, December weather was unusually dry here on South Fidalgo Island.  We received less than a half inch (12 mm) of rain for the month.  The dry spell ended on Christmas Day.  Now we are getting a succession of storms delivering wet and windy conditions, with calm spells in between.  Fortunately, all predictions indicate the New Year's weekend will be fairly nice.

Skywatch Friday:  Gone in a Flash

It was early morning and still quite dark outside.  I was watching the news over a second cup of coffee when suddenly, the room  went pink.  I grabbed the camera and caught this Skagit Bay sunrise just in the nick of time.  A moment later, it was gone.

Fidalgo Summit Views

At 1,273 feet (388 m) Mount Erie is the highest point on Fidalgo Island.  Technically, it is a diorite pluton.  This is a mass of magma, heated by tectonic plate subduction, that rose up into the earth's crust and solidified.  It became igneous stone similar to granite.  Later it was exposed by uplift, glaciation and erosion.  It is part of a complex formation called Fidalgo ophiolite, a mixture of ocean crust and volcanic rocks that make up Fidalgo and the San Juan Islands.  Note that if the molten magma reaches the surface, a volcano is the result instead.  (As an editorial point, while I am comfortable with technical writings in medicine, chemistry and biology, I find those in geology to be uniquely impervious to understanding.  Please excuse my feeble attempt to clarify the basic concepts here.)

Mount Erie is an Anacortes City Park and a part of the Community Forest Lands.  It is a popular spot for hikers, rock climbers and hang gliders.  It is also possible to drive a steep,…

Wild Fidalgo:  Eagles of Ala Spit

Meet the Bald Eagles of Ala Spit at Wild Fidalgo.  I have discovered that this Whidbey Island county park is a great spot for viewing wildlife.

Weather Wonderland

Photographing the weather can be a challenge.  Weather is not an object that can be portrayed in an image.  It is a condition of the atmosphere at a particular place and time.  It is possible to make images of the weather's effects.  For example, the wind cannot be photographed, but bending trees or crashing waves caused by the wind can be pictured.

For the past week, western Washington has been under the influence of both a lingering high pressure off the coast and a temperature inversion.  The high has given us clear, calm sunny days.  The inversion layer has trapped cold air near the ground under warmer air aloft.  The calm conditions prevent the mixing of air layers.  This is a recipe for chilly surface temperatures and morning fog in spots.

At home, the sun had come up under clear skies.  With nice weather and a day off, I headed over to the dike at Wiley Slough in the Skagit River delta to try and catch some wildlife photos.  The dike serves as a trail and makes it possible…

Skywatch Friday:  Rain Shadow

The Olympic Rain Shadow is a local weather phenomenon produced by the Olympic Mountain Range in northwest Washington State.  It is the reason the annual rainfall in my location can be nearly half of what Seattle experiences.  If I look over Whidbey Island, I can sometimes see it.  Such was the case early this morning.  As weather systems move in off the Pacific Ocean, the mountains will literally part the clouds.  The region under its influence gets less rainfall and more sunny days than other parts of western Washington.  The clouds empty most of their rain on the windward side of the mountains producing the famous Olympic Rain Forest.

UPDATE:  This morning we saw the sunrise through the oculus of the Olympic Rain Shadow.  This evening, the sunset is also worth a look.  I cannot see the sunset from my location (it's off to the right), but I can see its reflection when I look southeast.

Weather Statistics for November, 2011

TemperatureHigh 56.6° FLow 28.2° FMean 42.7° FRainfall2.40…

Olympic Rain Shadow, Again

7:35 AM, Temp 52.1° F, Dew Point 46.1° F, Barometer 29.84 in, Wind 11 mph G/24, Humidity 80%

We speak occasionally here about the Olympic Rain Shadow.  It is also known as the San Juan Sunbelt, Banana Belt and the Blue Hole.  This is what accounts for a surprisingly low annual rainfall in the area of the western Strait of Juan de Fuca, northern Puget Sound and the southern Strait of Georgia.  You can see the rain shadow on the radar map from this morning.  It is literally the hole in the middle of the rain image.  The Olympic Mountain Range sits southwest of the city of Port Angeles.  The clear wedge in the radar image locates the mountains which the radar cannot penetrate.

The red box marks Fidalgo Weather's location.  Despite the large weather system all around us, we were bone dry at that time.  During these events, I can sometimes look southwest and see blue sky over Whidbey Island.  It really is a "blue hole" in an otherwise cloudy sky.  South Fidalgo and North Whi…

Thanksgiving Day

November is our rainiest month, and late November usually means a succession of windstorms rolling through.  At Wild Fidalgo, we discover a lesson in diversity and tolerance at Deception Pass State Park.  Under an approaching windstorm, Black Oystercatchers and Glaucous-winged Gulls take a rest on the Thanksgiving holiday.  Have a great Thanksgiving, everyone.

Ala Spit

This is a zoomed photo of Ala Spit as seen from my house.  For many years I gazed at it through binoculars and I wondered what it was.  To the naked eye, it looked artificial.  That is Whidbey Island over there and it turns out, the spit is an Island County park.  It is also a natural sand spit built by currents, tidal action and wind.

I have now made two visits to the park.  Ala Spit is a deceptively complicated land form system packed into a narrow strip of sand.  A salt marsh and pocket estuary are sheltered on the leeward side.  Other features include rocky beach, mudflats, a coastal grassland and driftwood field.  It is a popular spot for fishing, clamming, wildlife viewing, browsing and beachcombing.

Beyond the spit to the east is Skagit Island (left) and Kiket Island on the right.  Skagit is a state park offering boat moorage, camping and diving.  It is accessible only by boat.  We have visited Kiket and its little companion Flagstaff Island before.

Ala Spit has just undergone…

Skywatch Friday:  Sunrise Season

Sunrise season has returned to South Fidalgo Island and Skagit Bay.  The best morning light shows here always occur during fall and winter months. This is probably because our most interesting weather also happens at this time.  Skagit Bay is the northern-most eastern reach of Puget Sound in Washington State.  This is a view looking south towards cloudier Seattle.

The Snow Geese of Fir Island

At Wild Fidalgo, check out the Snow Geese of Fir Island, Washington.

Autumn in the Garden

I have discovered a fascination with macro photography.  This is when you take pictures of small things up close.  Instead of photographing a tree, a macro shot might focus on one of its leaves.  While fall is a season of decline, it does not express itself with a lessening of intensity.  Above is one of our Pacific Northwest natives, the Vine Maple (Acer circinatum).  Enjoy this album of some of the autumn colors in my garden.

For shade-loving Hostas, this time of year means "Hosta la vista."  They die back and disappear completely.  We won't see them again until around April.

Weather Statistics for October, 2011

TemperatureHigh 65.2° FLow 38.5° FMean 50.4° FRainfall1.66 inchesWindHigh 25 mphAverage 1.2 mphDom Dir SW
Observed at South Fidalgo Island (See Climate page for complete climatological data)