Thunderstorms on the Eastern Slopes of the Cascades

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With southeasterly flow aloft and modestly unstable air over eastern Washington, thunderstorms are breaking out on the eastern slopes of the Cascades right now (2 PM on Monday). This convection occurs as the lifting caused by the eastern Cascade slopes releases the convection. On days like today, the atmosphere is in a state where thunderstorms only break out where air is lifted sufficiently so that the air becomes warmer than its environment and thus buoyant (the level of free convection).

Condensation of water vapor and the release of latent heat is an important part of this destabilization process. To put it simply, the heat released by condensation of water vapor into liquid water helps provide the heat that makes the rising air parcel warmer than its environment. We all think about the cooling that occurs when water evaporates, but we often forget that warming occurs when water condenses.

I have a colleague that has a wonderful lab in which students measure the rate of warming for cold coke cans in a dry or wet environment (this works for beer cans too!). In a moist environment, where condensation occurs on the cans, the contents warm up more quickly due to the condensation! So either drink your favorite brew quickly or keep them in a dry place.

Here are some images from the UW composite radar site (multiple radar images combined) and the Camano Island radar.

Some of the showers are reaching the Cascade crest and moving over to the western slopes--lets see if they die as they descend! The lightning detection network is picking up strikes from these systems (30 minutes ending 2 PM):

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