Watch video of damage in link below..
A meteorologist in northwestern Washington is trying to solve a meteorology mystery surrounding a massive tree fall in Olympic Park.
More than 100 trees fell in an area on the north side of Lake Quinault on the Olympic Peninsula just after midnight on Jan. 27. Cliff Mass, a Seattle meteorologist and professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, is trying to figure out why.
According to a two-part post he wrote for his blog, Cliff Mass Weather and Climate, early reports seemed to indicate that a microburst was responsible for the tree fall. Mass became skeptical that winds from a microburst would be sufficient to topple the large trees, particularly since some fell while others were snapped at the base of the tree.
"I spoke to Logan Johnson, meteorologist in charge, at the NWS Seattle Office," Mass wrote. "He suggested that to snap off such big trees would take winds of at least 70-80 mph. Maybe more."
Mass noted that at the time the tree fall occurred, radar indicated that there was "no hint of instability and thunderstorms" typical during episodes of microbursts, defined by the National Weather Service as "a localized column of sinking air (downdraft) within a thunderstorm and is usually less than or equal to 2.5 miles in diameter. Microbursts can cause extensive damage at the surface, and in some instances, can be life-threatening."
Interestingly, the tree fall was picked up as seismic activity, helping to confirm the timing.
"At 1:26 a.m. that morning there was a lot of activity ... and no tremors were noted at other regional stations," Mass wrote. "Dr. John Vidale (a former Washington state seismologist) suggests that it may represent the tremor produced by huge, falling trees. Fascinating. More evidence for the timing."
Mass began looking at data from nearby weather stations and found nothing that stood out as the cause of the tree fall, according to a second blog post.
One clue Mass says he is exploring is the fact that "a frontal zone was approaching, with warm air and southerly flow surging in aloft, while cooler easterly flow dominated near the surface."
Washington experiences fronts like this commonly that bring high winds, but they don't produce extreme local blowdowns, weather.com meteorologist Chris Dolce noted.
Mass said the mystery continues and promised to follow up on this lead in his next blog post.