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Mountainous Thoughts

One of the great things about our apartment is that we have an excellent view of Mt. Rainier. On clear days it provides a nice backdrop to the skyscrapers. Even on cloudy days we can often see the snowy lower slopes beneath the overcast.

I was wondering to myself why this was possible in Seattle, where Mt. Rainier is in the vicinity of 50 miles away, but not in Portland, where Mt. Hood is a mere 30 miles away. (These are straight line distances estimated using Google Maps.) Rainier is about 3000 feet taller than Hood, but I wouldn't think that would affect the visibility of the slopes. Both cities are at approximately the same elevation.

The only explanation that I can come up with is that since Rainier rises much more quickly out of the surrounding landscape, the clouds have the opportunity to bunch right up against it. In Portland you have foothills for quite a ways, and the clouds bunch up against hills that are much farther away from the mountain. Nice and simple, at least.

Really, I'm not sure. I would like to know, but I wouldn't know who to ask. It could even be that I just have more experience with Mt. Rainier, because of the location of our apartment. So, anyone remember whether the same effect occurs in Portland? Can anyone offer validity to my interpretation, or an alternate explanation?

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