June Gloom and KUOW Weekday

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Lets talk about weather first....

During late May and much of June low clouds tend to dominate the western lowands of Washington and the nearby offshore waters. Know as "June Gloom" in many circles, such persistent low cloudiness is a very typical feature of our climate. June is simply not a great month here and there are reasons for that.

Case in point. Today.

Yesterday was very nice, with the maximum temperature at Sea-Tac getting to 70F--the first time this season. We almost didn't make it, with high clouds from an approaching front slowing the temperature rise during the afternoon. If we didn't get to 70F it is almost certain we would have secured the record for the latest day ever to reach 70F at Sea Tac (the record is May 23rd).

A front went through last night and morning and in its wake we were left with lots of low clouds--stratus and stratocumulus--that held in pretty much all day. (see satellite picture today)

So why so many low clouds during the late spring?

There are several reasons. First, the air behind fronts are much colder earlier in the season and that causes the air to be much more unstable after frontal passage. With cold air above the relatively warm water there is a large change in temperature with height and the atmosphere breaks out into convection---think of your hot cereal pot. The result is showers and sunbreaks!

But there are other reasons. During spring and early summer high pressure--the east Pacific high--is building into our region and the high is associated with sinking motion that decreases toward the surface. Such sinking tends to stabilize the atmosphere, reducing mixing. Thus the ocean is able to inject a lot of moisture into the lower atmosphere that is not mixing out. What does that give you? Low clouds.

Finally, during late spring and summer the continents surround the Pacific warm up relative to the ocean, which heats very, very slowly. With warm continental air moving over the cold water, you have a very stable situation and the warm air gets cooled to its dew point by the cold ocean...the result...you got it...low clouds.

Want to know something REALLY depressing. According to the regional climate simulations being done by my group and others at the UW, global warming will bring MORE low clouds during the spring around here. For example, here is the percent change in low clouds during March, April, and May between the late 1990s and 2090s from one of these simulations. Blue means more low clouds!Why? The simulations suggest a stronger east Pacific high with global warming (more sinking and stable air at low levels) and a warmer continent (which causes the pressure to fall relative to the ocean, and thus more onshore flow).

We just can't win! But don't worry--the rest of the summers will get much warmer, if these simulations are correct.

Finally, let me comment a bit on the whole flap about me be kicked off KUOW Weekday.

Update (some kind folks have created an online petition asking KUOW to reconsider: found here: http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/cliffmassonkuow )

First, let me say I am stunned by the reaction and the many messages of support. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your words. I received over 400 email messages and over 250 comments on my blog, and was greatly encouraged by the Facebook page, which received hundreds of comments. The KUOW Facebook page was overwhelmed . I am still hoping to hear from the KUOW folks, but if not, I have received offers of a regular spot on a few local radio and TV stations. And, of course, there is my blog and the podcast that I plan to start.

This whole situation is really so silly and unnecessary. Let me tell you a little more than has been in the media or my previous blog post. The truth is that I had already caved into most of Katy's and Steve's demands. In our meeting a few years ago over this issue they told me if I talked about math education another time, they would take me off the air. I told them I thought they were completely wrong and were ill-serving KUOW listeners, but I would pull back from discussing math topics. And since that time I HAVE NOT talked about math as all of you know. I never talked about my participation in the lawsuit against Seattle Public Schools about bad math textbooks. I never talked about the State deciding to take on Common Core math standards during this legislative session. I gave in to them because I thought it was more important to serve the KUOW listener community than to fight it out with them. I talked about math on my blog and on the many times I have been invited to talk on other radio stations (e.g., KOMO radio).

So they really got what they wanted. What got me into trouble, what really ended my weather segment, was ONE situation a few weeks ago, where I defended the UW admission's policy. Yes, you got this right-- I was ejected from the UW-owned public radio station for defending the UW. Pretty amazing. The Seattle Times had published a very deceptive article and the 10 AM Week in Review group on Weekday pontificated about it the previous week, continuing to provide the listeners with non-factual information. I had direct knowledge of the facts and had confirmed them with the Dean of Admissions. I would have thought Steve would have thanked me for insuring KUOW listeners were not ill-informed. But that is not what happened. He canceled my next segment and his aide Katy then sent me the threatening ultimatum. I responded very carefully, but told them I could not guarantee NEVER to go off the narrow topic of weather. And for that I was canned. It really appears to me the concern was never about the listeners, the effects of losing my weather segment, or the importance of insuring that listeners get the best possible information. It seemed to be about something else.

The online description of KUOW's weekday states that it is
"call–in, talk show format invites listeners to converse with activists, politicians and practical thinkers on relevant issues and ideas of the day" How is this inconsistent with my talking about math and science education or UW admissions, which are certainly some of the most relevant issues of the day? Why did they allow me to do so for a decade and then change their minds? Why did they not trust their audience to consider the experiences of a long-term university educator? Why is Weekday so dominated by authors pushing their books and so little real-discussion of local issues?

During the past year, the amount of time for the weather segment has progressively dropped, and increasingly they run out of time in the first hour and push me to the second, so that listeners are uncertain when I will talk. Each week I provided Steve with a list of questions to ask me and frequently that list is not used. There has to be a better way to ensure listeners have a more consistent experience.

I hope the program can evolve, and the strong reaction of the listeners shows that many hope that program becomes a more open forum for community discussion. I believe in public radio and I believe in the potential of programs like Weekday. There is much to learn from the hundreds of comments of Weekday listeners found on the Facebook sites. Perhaps the KUOW folks are willing to talk this through with me and find some kind of compromise approach so I can come back. I hope so. But if not, I will find another, more open venue and tolerant environment, for talking about the whys behind the weather and some of the key issues of science and math education.

PS: I did not suggest or encourage the poll on the Stranger Slog (only 8 % wanted me fired) or the Fire Steve Scher Facebook site. I am NOT suggesting anyone should be terminated. One termination is enough for this month.
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