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Old 01-01-2013, 10:09 PM
 
Location: Studio City, CA 91604
2,083 posts, read 2,526,851 times
Reputation: 3463

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I've been scanning the Idaho forum and it seems that many people who move to North Idaho or are from there will remark about the dark, gray overcast that dominates the sky for a large portion of the year. Many people who move to North Idaho even grow weary of the dominant overcast.

Ever wonder what causes it? I have an answer.

It's no secret that the coastal Pacific Northwest is one of the rainiest regions in the nation. From late September through early June, the Oregon and Washington coasts are hit with a procession of storms off of the Pacific Ocean.

The Cascade mountain range forms a spine up the western side of both states.

Whether or not any precipitation gets from the west side of the Cascades to the east side depends on the strength of the storm itself. If you get a strong Cold Front sweeping in out of the Gulf of Alaska, you're more likely to get some precipitation on the east side of the Cascades because the high-density cloud bank associated with the Cold Front will be stronger.

However, if the storm is not as strong, you'll get the bulk of the lower, rain-bearing cloud bank on the West side, meanwhile, the only clouds that make it east of the Cascades are the high and dreary cirrostratus and altostratus clouds which produce little to no precipitation at all but can block out the sun and make conditions quite dreary.

Most of the storms that hit the Pacific Northwest coast are not particularly strong and, therefor, the rain-bearing cloud bank stays to the west of the Cascades while the higher and gloomier clouds (altostratus and cirrostratus) are able to cross the Cascades and hang over Wenatchee, Spokane, Coeur d'Alene, etc.

Furthermore, these gloomy upper-level clouds are sometimes "caught" in eastern Washington and North Idaho by the Canadian Rockies (Bitterroot Range) that cut down into Idaho and Montana. This is why Montana and Southern Idaho are always sunnier than North Idaho and Spokane too.

When you combine the overcast with the the darker time of year, it can psychologically start to weigh on a lot of people. You either love it and deal with it or you go somewhere sunnier.

Now you know!
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Old 01-02-2013, 01:07 AM
 
Location: Idaho a free state
181 posts, read 357,621 times
Reputation: 448
I love it, but in general I live cold dark weather, did 3 years in Alaska while in the Army when we needed to do cold weather testing of the new then M1 Abrams, named the tank I was given after my favorite drink "Yukon Jack". I find this dark period restful, like the earth is sleeping.

As I learned in the Army there is no bad weather, just bad choice of clothing.
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Old 01-02-2013, 08:00 PM
 
3,971 posts, read 11,442,665 times
Reputation: 1576
It really is all about the jet stream. If it arches up and over W. WA and Vancouver Island, it likely will slide down over the Northern Rockies. While Spokane and NID are not technically the Northern Rockies, they are close enough to get the effects.
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Old 01-03-2013, 04:24 AM
 
Location: Sacramento
152 posts, read 186,701 times
Reputation: 99
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Old 01-03-2013, 06:45 AM
 
5,531 posts, read 8,782,406 times
Reputation: 5446
Quote:
Originally Posted by mattk92681 View Post
I've been scanning the Idaho forum and it seems that many people who move to North Idaho or are from there will remark about the dark, gray overcast that dominates the sky for a large portion of the year. Many people who move to North Idaho even grow weary of the dominant overcast.

Ever wonder what causes it? I have an answer.

It's no secret that the coastal Pacific Northwest is one of the rainiest regions in the nation. From late September through early June, the Oregon and Washington coasts are hit with a procession of storms off of the Pacific Ocean.

The Cascade mountain range forms a spine up the western side of both states.

Whether or not any precipitation gets from the west side of the Cascades to the east side depends on the strength of the storm itself. If you get a strong Cold Front sweeping in out of the Gulf of Alaska, you're more likely to get some precipitation on the east side of the Cascades because the high-density cloud bank associated with the Cold Front will be stronger.

However, if the storm is not as strong, you'll get the bulk of the lower, rain-bearing cloud bank on the West side, meanwhile, the only clouds that make it east of the Cascades are the high and dreary cirrostratus and altostratus clouds which produce little to no precipitation at all but can block out the sun and make conditions quite dreary.

Most of the storms that hit the Pacific Northwest coast are not particularly strong and, therefor, the rain-bearing cloud bank stays to the west of the Cascades while the higher and gloomier clouds (altostratus and cirrostratus) are able to cross the Cascades and hang over Wenatchee, Spokane, Coeur d'Alene, etc.

Furthermore, these gloomy upper-level clouds are sometimes "caught" in eastern Washington and North Idaho by the Canadian Rockies (Bitterroot Range) that cut down into Idaho and Montana. This is why Montana and Southern Idaho are always sunnier than North Idaho and Spokane too.

When you combine the overcast with the the darker time of year, it can psychologically start to weigh on a lot of people. You either love it and deal with it or you go somewhere sunnier.

Now you know!
Matt, such a great, explanatory post! I hate to be nitpicking. Maybe I shouldn't...Oh, what the heck, I'll nitpick! The Bitterroots are indeed part of the Rockies, but they don't stretch down from Canada. They're "homegrown": they start in the Clark Fork Valley and continue south, straddling the ID/MT border. The Northern part of the range is known as the Coeur d'Alenes in NID, but across the border the Montanans call them the Bitterroots. Same mountains. The range north of the Clark Fork Valley is known as the Cabinets. They're also part of the Rockies. Further west you have the Selkirks, straddling the border into Canada.

I know one thing is what a large, regional map will tell you, and another thing is the terminology locals use. But the Bitterroots are definitely not Canadian! Our place sits at the northernmost tip of that great range.

Oh, one more thing. "You either love it and deal with it or you go somewhere sunnier." I think there is a third option: You put up with it because you have to...
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Old 01-03-2013, 09:50 AM
 
Location: Old Mother Idaho
19,363 posts, read 13,027,109 times
Reputation: 14070
It's 4 degrees below zero here on a beautiful sunny morning with no wind chill.
I would gladly trade the sunshine for 10 more degrees of warmth right now!
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Old 01-03-2013, 09:53 PM
 
Location: Studio City, CA 91604
2,083 posts, read 2,526,851 times
Reputation: 3463
Quote:
Originally Posted by Clark Fork Fantast View Post
Matt, such a great, explanatory post! I hate to be nitpicking. Maybe I shouldn't...Oh, what the heck, I'll nitpick! The Bitterroots are indeed part of the Rockies, but they don't stretch down from Canada. They're "homegrown": they start in the Clark Fork Valley and continue south, straddling the ID/MT border. The Northern part of the range is known as the Coeur d'Alenes in NID, but across the border the Montanans call them the Bitterroots. Same mountains. The range north of the Clark Fork Valley is known as the Cabinets. They're also part of the Rockies. Further west you have the Selkirks, straddling the border into Canada.

I know one thing is what a large, regional map will tell you, and another thing is the terminology locals use. But the Bitterroots are definitely not Canadian! Our place sits at the northernmost tip of that great range.

Oh, one more thing. "You either love it and deal with it or you go somewhere sunnier." I think there is a third option: You put up with it because you have to...
I don't mind the "nitpickyness" if it has a point, and yours did. So thanks for that!
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Old 01-03-2013, 09:54 PM
 
Location: Studio City, CA 91604
2,083 posts, read 2,526,851 times
Reputation: 3463
Awesome chart Vapour_Trail !
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Old 01-03-2013, 11:00 PM
 
Location: Sandpoint, ID
3,110 posts, read 9,158,713 times
Reputation: 2528
Quote:
Originally Posted by banjomike View Post
It's 4 degrees below zero here on a beautiful sunny morning with no wind chill.
I would gladly trade the sunshine for 10 more degrees of warmth right now!
This is why I love the clouds...sun is all fine and good, but the cloudier/warmer it is, well...keeps the heating bills down...
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Old 01-04-2013, 12:01 AM
 
Location: Old Mother Idaho
19,363 posts, read 13,027,109 times
Reputation: 14070
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sage of Sagle View Post
This is why I love the clouds...sun is all fine and good, but the cloudier/warmer it is, well...keeps the heating bills down...
Yup. In a month, we will get some added warmth along with any sunshine that comes our way. Let the shortest days of the year be the gloomiest, since it's going to be dark any way. I'll take the extra warmth.

That's a very interesting map, Vapor trail! The center portion- theoretical amount of sunshine vs. actual sunshine, was especially revealing to me. Idaho is sunnier than other states that lie along the same latitude, but Seattle gets even less sun than the possible max, which is also lower than the Idaho max. Now, that's some gloom for you! And Yuma is sunnier that Florida. Most of all, Alaska gets the least sun of any state. I wonder what effect that has on it's citizens...
I suffer from SADD, so I sure wouldn't do well up there....

Last edited by banjomike; 01-04-2013 at 12:15 AM..
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