Portland Weather Anchor Change: Bruce Sussman is Out

April 4, 2014

The Portland TV rumor machine has been in overdrive the past 3 days.  That’s because for the first time in about 5 years there is a change in the Chief Meteorologist job at one of the 4 stations.  It doesn’t have anything to do with me or FOX12, but anyone who reads this blog is interested in weather.  And if you’re interested in weather you probably also have an interest in who is presenting weather nightly on local TV.

Here’s the latest:

1.  Bruce Sussman over at KOIN has been let go.  Or you can choose your own wording such as “fired” or “contract not renewed” based on whether you are a viewer, owner of a tv station, etc…

2.  His last day was Thursday and last broadcast was 11pm.  I noticed the wording of his last forecast update yesterday was telling:   “If this forecast (sun next week) holds…don’t expect to see me on the news…I’ll be out playing with the kids!  Thanks so much for getting your news from the KOIN weather team. I’ve always appreciated you doing that.    Bruce Sussman – Chief Meteorologist”.   His bio is already gone from their website.

3.  Rumor also says Kristen VanDyke, a forecaster from station KRQE in Albuquerque, is coming to take that job soon.  You can see her here:  http://krqe.com/2014/04/03/kristens-thursday-morning-forecast-11/

Bruce is a good friend and it’s very disappointing to see him losing his position of course.  Although we do all know in this business that the end can come at any time, especially at a station that has problems.

KOIN has been struggling for years with numerous management changes, changing owners, and poor ratings.  Still, from a purely meteorological point of view, it’s never good to swap out a forecaster with almost 20 years of local forecasting experience with someone from out of the area.  Of course only half of what we do is weather forecasting and the rest is TV, so it’s a balancing act for TV stations.

The last time we saw a dramatic change like this was back in 2009 when Dave Salesky jumped from KGW over to KATU, bumping Rod Hill from KATU to…KGW.  Apparently in this town most of us just move from station to station.

Good luck Bruce, I’m sure you’ll do just fine wherever you land!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen




Light Rain, Then Warmer Weather Still on Tap

April 3, 2014

It was a gloomy end to Thursday with light rain at times from around 2pm onward here in the Portland metro area.    Still, it was nice to have some dry weather this morning, at least dry enough to get outside and do some yard cleanup in my case.  I sure noticed that spring has sprung even higher up where I live with trilliums just starting to appear in the woods, they look like this:  trillium The weather pattern has been quite dull and boring this week.  One weak system came through our area today and then several weak waves of moisture (clouds and rain) will move through a developing upper-level ridge Saturday and Sunday.  The weekend probably won’t be a total washout, in fact Sunday may be mainly dry SOUTH of the Portland area as the ridge pushes the light rain farther north. What about Monday and beyond?  Models are still pushing upper level heights up around 570-576dm at 500mb, a very nice setup in April and May for 70 degree temperatures.  850mb temperatures make it to around 10-12 degrees celsius (ECMWF) both Monday and Tuesday.  Even the cooler 8 degree temps on the GFS produce temps in the lower 70s Monday and Tuesday. Now it appears that a trough will pass by to the north on Wednesday, cooling us down and possibly some showers push south into NW Oregon too.  However, the generally higher than normal upper-level heights seem to stick around for a few more days.  Here’s a very confusing, yet interesting chart from WeatherBell.  They provide (for a fee) access to lots of extra model information and they have some really interesting presentations of model data. KPDX_2014040312_maxx_240 Everyone got that?  I think the forecast is VERY clear from this chart.  Just kidding, but stay with me, it actually makes sense if I annotate it a bit: New Scene   What you are seeing is maximum temperature forecast for each 12 hour period in Portland.  The last 11 runs of the ECMWF model are stacked from newest on the bottom to oldest on the top.  So the bottom row is the CURRENT forecast from the ECMWF.  Notice it shows a high around 70 Monday and 67 Tuesday, then 62 Wednesday.  If you go up one line, but stay in the same column, that’s the same time period but one model run back in time.  A lineup like this allows a forecaster (or you) to see how the last 11 runs of the model have trended for any one date.  In this case you can see the high temp forecast for Monday has been very consistent.  You can also see the Tuesday forecast high has trended down the past few days as the ECMWF has gradually weakened the ridging for next week.  Maybe most interesting is that for several days the ECMWF was showing high temps around 80 degrees next Wednesday and Thursday.  Instead we now have a trough “crashing the ridge” on Wednesday, thus a much cooler temperature forecast.  A chart like this is extremely helpful; one can digest many different model runs with just a glance.  The minimum temperature chart (not shown) is just as useful for tracking how models are doing with approaching cold weather in the winter too.

This is definitely not a TV graphic…don’t you agree?

BIG PICTURE:  3 more days of cool and wet, then warmer & drier than average next week.  Are you a gardener like me?  Next week will be our first multi-day dry period in over two weeks…time to get some outside work done! Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Spring Break Wrap; Warmer Weather Ahead…Eventually

April 1, 2014

Another wet morning out there and it looks like a gray day to start April, but there is hope on the horizon!

It’s only 8am, but apparently I’m still on east coast time because I couldn’t sleep.

My family vacation the past 7 days was crazy, and not in a good way.

​We showed up on Tuesday evening in Orlando to do 3 days of theme parks and 3 days of beach in Florida.  My daughter Ariel went to bed with a slight headache, then woke up with severe head/neck pain at 3am.  We took her to local ER at 10am.  By 2pm they sent her to children’s hospital in an ambulance after finding signs of infection during a spinal tap.   It was a bacterial meningitis, the scary stuff we sometimes hear about where kids are healthy one day and dead or dying 48 hours later.  Real scary for about 12 hours.

Nice first day in sunny Florida eh?  She then was in the hospital through midday yesterday, we left, went to the airport and headed home.  She’s perfectly “normal” now due to quick action on our part, prayers from family and friends, and the wonders of modern medicine.  If we would have been in a remote area (Mexico, outer Caribbean etc…)  I think she could have died.  I can’t say enough good things about my wife, who happens to be an RN and recognized the symptoms of a serious infection.  The poor girl deserves a return trip…she saw some brief sun the evening we showed up, and between the car and airport on the way out of there yesterday.  Otherwise she was in a hospital the whole time.

By the way, why does no one use turn signals in Florida?…extremely annoying.  I also saw some really bad driving there, and it wasn’t tourists!
I wanted to share the big picture weatherwise, since that’s the first thing I looked at.  Plus I figure some of you are model-starved.
Looks like not too wet tomorrow and Thursday, more rain Friday-Sunday, then finally some nice spring weather for next week.  Here are the two ensemble charts from both the 00z GFS and ECMWF last night:
You can see the obvious ridging next week along with the below average 850mb temps this week.  Also note operational runs are much warmer than ensembles.  Check out the operational ECMWF meteogram:
No rain next week and the warmest temperatures we’ve seen so far this spring, up around 80.  BUT, here’s another chart from the same run:
It also shows the maximum temp on the top half in black squares for the operational run (note it matches the previous chart numbers).  Then the ensemble average is the smaller green squares.  Those numbers are more like mid 60s.  The bottom chart is minimum temperature.
Here’s a look at the monthly ECMWF maps from Sunday night’s run…showing troughing this week, ridging next, and then no real clear signal after that:





So the message here is that starting next Monday, we have a warmer/drier pattern for a while, but we don’t know if it’ll be really warm or just a bit warmer than average.  Either way it appears that some nice April weather is on the way.
Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Spring Break

March 25, 2014


I will be on vacation through March 31st, so probably no posts through that time.  Enjoy the rain!

3 Nice Days, then Very Wet!

March 21, 2014

Oregon’s Spring Break has begun and it looks glorious for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.  We’ll see slight warming over the weekend, then a warming overhead atmosphere combined with offshore flow and Monday will push temperatures up to the warmest we have seen so far this year.


The GFS, ECMWF, and WRF-GFS show temperatures just shy or at 70 degrees for a high Monday afternoon.  That wouldn’t be unusual because about every other year we hit 70 at some point in the month.  Maybe similar odds to hitting 98-100 degrees in July?  OR, maybe we’ll just top out at 68 as my current forecast shows.  Either way, try to take a sick day Monday to enjoy the warmth.  Because then we turn very wet.

All models are in strong agreement that we’ll be seeing several weather systems Tuesday through at least the following weekend.  The ECMWF shows rain beginning Monday night with no 12 hour period dry for the following 7 days!


That graphic shows the actual rain accumulation in blue on the bottom chart and the ensemble average as green; note ensembles are quite close to the deterministic forecast.  The chart on the top shows each individual ensemble member’s rainfall accumulation.  By the way you’ll notice I use Salem instead of Portland since the terrain on the ECMWF seems to shove heavier Clark County foothills precipitation too far southwest into the metro area,  The GFS meteogram shows the same thing; this is the 00z run this evening:


Probably not such good graphics to use on TV eh?  Might be mildly confusing.

So enjoy the next 3 days, and then hunker down for lots of rain and some windy systems too.  It IS possible to have a weak windstorm this late in the season, but right now I don’t see any real deep lows close to the coast or strengthening as they approach.

On another note, our overnight temps should warm a bit the next two days.  There were record low temps in Pendleton, John Day, and Burns this morning.  12 in late March…that’s chilly!


Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


Equinox Thursday: Halfway to Summer

March 19, 2014

Tomorrow morning at 9:57am we’ll see the Spring (Vernal) Equinox in the northern hemisphere.


What does that mean?

The earth orbits around the sun, but the poles are not lined up directly perpendicular to the orbital plane.  Our planet is actually tilted about 23 degrees from vertical.  That means that at one point in our orbit the southern hemisphere is receiving more energy from the sun than the north and six months later it is reversed.  That’s how we end up with summer and winter, the effect being more pronounced (generally) the farther you head away from the tropics.  If you visit a tropical area you’ll find that “summer’ and “winter” aren’t really in their vocabulary since the sun is always almost directly overhead.  Tomorrow we’ll be halfway between the two points, thus the Equinox which means “equal night”.  Day/night are very close to equal in late March and in late September.

Of course you might then wonder why we aren’t halfway to the hottest time of the year climate-wise?  If the average high in Portland is 44 at the coldest and 82 at the warmest, why isn’t the average high in the lower 60s?  It’s because it takes time for the heat to accumulate on the land and in the oceans, and they are both slow to lose it, thus the delayed seasons.  If we’re talking just energy from the sun, we should be halfway through spring right now.  Obviously we aren’t.

Another misconception is that it’s winter right up until tomorrow morning.  That’s not really true either; because the coldest 3 months of the year at our latitude are December-February, not mid December through mid-March.  Take a look at the average monthly temperatures here in Portland:


Notice that March is not only warmer than December, but even a bit warmer than November!  Even if you take the coldest four months of the year, March still isn’t included and is definitely not a winter month in the Pacific Northwest.  That said, it’s a little easier to get snowfall to lower elevations in March than November.

Meteorologically we consider winter in the Northern Hemisphere as December-February for the reasons mentioned above.  How was this winter in our area temperature-wise?  Take a look at the national temperature departure from normal:


Note we were generally near normal across Washington and Northern Oregon and above average farther into the state (of Oregon).  Now I’m not into conspiracy theories, generally, but I do notice what someone else already did.  You have to look very closely to see the below average temperature areas but the opposite, above average, sticks out great due to the color table chosen by NCDC.  Much of the nation was very cold, yet this map seems to minimize it a bit.  But, maybe it’s just me.  Anyway, if you look closely at Oregon you see something interesting:


The chart above shows temperatures for Zone 2 in Oregon, the Willamette Valley area.  We had our coldest winter since 2008-2009.  Yet:


This chart shows the high desert areas of Oregon east of the Cascades had their warmest winter in about 8 years.   What?  Most likely due to the frequent inversions.   Remember all the days Salem sat in the 30s while Bend and Burns made it into the 50s?  That explains it.

What about precipitation?  No big surprise here, parts of the Pacific Northwest, especially along the coastline are in the MUCH BELOW NORMAL category.  The farther south you go along the West Coast the drier it was:


Poor California, and they are just about out of time to get significant rain this season.

So this winter was definitely drier than normal and a bit cooler than normal here in the lowlands.  Once again…a weird winter.  So far March is running wetter and warmer than average.

By the way, do you know what would happen if we were orbiting the sun without that 22 degree tilt?  There wouldn’t be any (temperature) seasons.  We would just stay the same year-round.  And you can probably guess what it would be like if we were tilted a full 45 degrees?  Even more extreme changes from summer to winter.  In that case the sun would be directly overhead at the summer solstice and it would be on the “arctic circle” with the sun hardly rising at all at the winter solstice…brrr!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Lowest Snow Level In A Month (or so)

March 17, 2014

8:30am Monday…

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 

We’ve got some chilly Irish weather for you; appropriate enough for Ireland at least.

Yesterday’s cold front held off long enough to give MOST of the metro area a dry and warm day.  Looks like the ECMWF was wrong this time pushing in the precipitation early in the day.  It sure was close though!  Kelso was in the upper 40s or 50 all afternoon while we hit the lower 60s in a good chunk of the metro area.   Models really did quite well (even the ECMWF) showing the band of steady rain holding nearby all day and then suddenly swooping in from the northwest in the evening.

Then the cold air came in with the moisture, bringing us the first snow below 2,000′ since the arctic blast back in early February.  This morning I have a snow/rain mix at 1,000′ and you can see there was snow during the night on these ODOT cameras around 1,000-1,200′ along Highway 26 east of Sandy:


US26 at Cherryville Dr_pid2332

The mountains FINALLY have some decent snow today too; looks like 6-12″ has fallen up there and it’s all powder for the first time in a month too!

Showers taper off today and will be mainly up against the Cascades where the air rises, cools, and moisture condenses out of the clouds.

The weather will continue to be relatively quiet/calm the next week.  We get a cool trough swinging through on Wednesday/Thursday, then split flow COULD mean another nice weekend with rain headed into California.  We’ll see about that later this week.  You can see the gradual warming on the ECMWF maximum temperature forecast through early next week:


The ECMWF is also drier than other models too, showing just a few hundredths on Wednesday afternoon and then nothing until next Tuesday or Wednesday.  That’s because it has the Wednesday/Thursday trough a bit flatter and the air isn’t as cold with it.  We’ll see.  Once we get more clearing and the chillier airmass, expect overnight frosts to return Thursday-Saturday mornings too.

 Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


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