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Monday, September 28, 2020

It’s the microclimate, stupid!

Canadian winds mean it IS colder here than Seattle

By Erasmus Baxter

Ever returned to Western from break and felt like Bellingham was a cold and windy wasteland? Like you’re a doomed “Game of Thrones” extra crossing into the frozen wilds beyond the Wall?

Turns out it’s not just your dread of returning to classes manifesting itself. Western and Whatcom County are in a microclimate which often makes them colder than other Puget Sound-adjacent areas of Washington. Sometimes as much as 20 degrees colder, according to Northwest weather expert Cliff Mass.

A woman taking a walk in the snow near Fairhaven on Wednesday, Jan. 15. // Photo by Claire Ott.

At fault? Canada.

When high-pressure systems develop over British Columbia, they send strong, cold northeast winds jetting out through the Fraser Valley, Mass said. The winds, that can reach up to 50 mph, pour out over Vancouver, B.C. and Bellingham like a horde of White Walkers.

Sophomores Kiana and Makenzie Doyle from University Place, near Tacoma, weren’t aware of the microclimate, but said it makes sense.

“It snows more here than it does there,” Kiana Doyle said as the twins assembled a snow person on Old Main’s lawn.

“I don’t think I’ve been outside in 20 degrees before,” Makenzie Doyle added.

Mass, a University of Washington professor who runs a popular regional weather blog and wrote a book on Northwest weather, said the snow this week is the microclimate in action.

Compared to Seattle this week, “it was much, much colder,” he said. An average of 15 degrees colder, according to Weather Underground data.

While a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson did not respond to a voicemail asking what they could do to prevent the winds from crossing into Bellingham, not everyone is particularly worried about the cold.

Senior Lia Henriksen appreciated that the snow broke up the overcast monotony. She said she’s used to the snow in Colorado, with the difference that the cold in Bellingham is wetter and people respond differently.

“People [here] are much less prepared for this kind of weather,” she said.


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