Mild Weather Continues

February 11, 2016

We’ve been busy the past two days here at FOX12 in a telethon raising money to support the Childrens Cancer Association.  Luckily the weather has been dead so I can focus on other things…Daria and 105.1 The Buzz have been our partners in this endeavor and this was a nice photo moment:


Moving along, take a look at the 00z GFS ensemble chart…above normal through almost the entire 16 day period.  Remember the blue line is the actual operational model, the red is the average of all the ensembles, and green is the average for the date.


This says it’ll be tough to get snow down to Government Camp much in the next two weeks.  The snowpack below 4,000′ will continue to slowly melt.  The 12z ECMWF is a little cooler in the middle of the period, but plenty warm early and later:


I’m dusting off the fork this evening…

Here are the 4 weekly maps from last night’s run of the ECMWF.  That takes us through the 2nd week of March, showing higher than normal heights through the period:


Downpours in Vancouver

February 11, 2016

3:28pm Thursday…

It’s wet, but warm out there this afternoon!  Check out the radar:


And a little closer you can see heavy rain moving through Vancouver,


This stuff is moving quickly to the northeast so the rain won’t last long.  Expect showers to pretty much end after sunset.  But don’t worry, rain will be back just in time for the Friday AM commute.

By the way, another very warm day out there; temperatures close to 60 degrees again


Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

A New First Live Local Weather Face

February 9, 2016

I have a new co-worker in the FOX12 weather center!


Meteorologist Liana Brackett has been with us since early January; getting on-air just in the past few days.  She’ll be getting you all your weather information during the 8pm and 9pm shows on PDX-TV.  Of course she’ll be working on other shows as well.  Our company owns both FOX12 and PDX-TV and we produce newscasts for both stations.  It’s all the same in that the signal just goes to one transmitter or the other; the same graphics and FOX12 branding is used in all shows.  We produce 6 evening newscasts so that’s a lot of weather content to fill!  We do a lot of this:


There are generally two ways a person gets into broadcast meteorology (television weathercasting).  The first is most typical: you get a broadcast journalism degree, start as a reporter, get some weather knowledge, and become a weathercaster.  The second path is to get a degree in Atmospheric Sciences or Meteorology and then become an on-air meteorologist.

Here in the Portland television market there are 4 weathercasters with a degree in meteorology and we now have 3 of them!  Brian MacMillan and I both have degrees along with Liana.  She graduated from UC Davis with a degree in Atmospheric Sciences.  Liana spent the past 6 years working here in Portland right under our noses…at the Portland National Weather Service office.  As a result she knows our weather well which is quite a plus.  To be honest, it’s a bit of a pain to teach someone from another part of the country how our weather works; it takes awhile to get used to all our terrain and the effects it has on day to day conditions so we got lucky to find someone local.

I asked her a few questions…

What’s the hardest part of changing from a non-TV job to “on-air”? Using less technical meteorological terms! That was a tough one for me because I was used to using “orographic lift” and other terms daily. But, I love explaining weather terms so that will be fun to do on-air.

What’s the best part? I love explaining weather to people so now I get to do it every day! That, and the dressing up part and the fun people I get to work with.

Have you been surprised by anything/something? I didn’t realize how long I can spend looking at the weather! At the NWS, you’re constantly watching the weather so I can easily spend 3-4 hours just trying to get the forecast “just right.” But, now in TV, I have to manage my time between forecasting, getting camera ready, and actually doing the show. I just need to get some more programs on my home computer then.

What’s it like to tell a weather “story”, have a producer talk in your ear, change graphics, and smile all at the same time?  Tougher than it looks or no? Oh. My. Goodness. It is way tougher than it looks! There is an art to it all, and that’s when things go perfectly. It’s even more challenging when you throw in any malfunctions like you can’t see yourself, but you still need to talk into the camera and smoothly go through your weather story. But, I’m loving the challenge and know it’ll just get easier and smoother. I seriously love this job!

Anything else you want to add? 
This job is amazing! Well, I get to work with Mark every weeknight
so how can it not be? Lol, he’s sitting nextto me so I have to say that. J 

Because I’m such a mean guy…that’s right…
We’ve all enjoyed getting to know Liana over the past month and look forward to many more months/years with her!
Here is some contact info for you:


Follow on Twitter:

Like on Facebook:

By the way, in case you are wondering who is leaving or getting fired?  No one.  Nora Hart has been doing weather for the past 16 months but is now a news anchor again.   She’s leaving us in the weather center and moving about…15 feet away.
Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

A February “Scorcher”

February 8, 2016

9pm Monday…

What a day!  As expected the inversion partially broke in spots today, mainly along the Coast and Cascade Foothills.  Numerous high temperature records were likely broken, but most of those we won’t find out about for a few weeks or months since they don’t report daily.  Take a look at the coastal highs:

One would think the 82 degree temperature at North Bend was an Oregon record for the month of February, but no, it hit 89 degrees in the Applegate Valley in SW Oregon back in 1907.


Here in Portland we missed the high temperature record by 2 degrees, but quite a bit warmer than the 31 degree high 2 years ago on this date!

The biggest news was overhead…the Salem sounding temperature at 850mb (around 5,000′) was 18.6 degrees!  That’s FAR warmer than any other February/March/early April day on record.  The airmass overhead is historically warm.  I saw this tweet from Stu Ostro showing the extremely high 500mb heights overhead…588dm this morning:


So basically this ridge of high pressure is the strongest (measured this way) of any other in February/March/April.  Hard to believe eh?  But true.

With the strong inversion, the 8 millibars of easterly Gorge flow was contained to a very shallow layer, bringing us the strongest east wind of the “winter” for the high wind areas in the western Gorge.  Corbett had a peak gust of 76 mph, the highest this season.  The Vista House gust of 96 mph is the highest measured on that sensor, which only sticks out from the wall about a foot or so.  That comes with a big caveat; during several big wind/ice events the sensor has been offline due to power outages and/or ice locking up the gauge.  So it’s the highest observed.

That wind will decrease dramatically tomorrow afternoon and now there are even hints of a weak “marine push” of low clouds Wednesday morning as the flow turns onshore.  We’ll see about that.  I didn’t totally buy it, thus the still sunny Wednesday in the 7 Day forecast.

Looking ahead, the general pattern is quite mild through the middle of the month.  Notice not much new snow at the ski areas for the next week with high freezing levels.


It’s not unusual for the best ski conditions to show up in the 1st half of the ski season in El Nino years and this year that’s the case.  Not that we don’t have plenty of snow and great weather (me and my son Sunday enjoying the bright sunshine),


but the regular doses of powder were mainly before the New Year this year.  Yes, I told him to wear sunglasses but of course he didn’t listen to the old man.

Moving along, the ECMWF ensemble maps from last night’s run show the same thing they have been for a couple weeks:

Still looks like a mild pattern through the early part of March.  We’ll see how that goes.

Enjoy the sunshine again Tuesday!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen




February “Heat Wave” Coming…How Warm?

February 4, 2016

9pm Thursday…

You knew I just had to have a dramatic title like that didn’t you?


Sunday through Tuesday, and possibly Wednesday will feature our first taste of “early spring” this year with some record high temperatures likely in spots.

  • Skies should be all or mainly sunny during that period
  • High temperatures away from the Gorge wind areas in the western valleys and in the Cascades should reach 58-64 Monday-Tuesday
  • Highs at the Coast and Cascade Foothills will be up around 70 in spots those two days



It’s been obvious for the past few days that a big ridge of high pressure in the upper-atmosphere will build over the Pacific Northwest.  That starts this weekend and then continues through the middle of next week.  Models have been in excellent agreement with the general pattern.


Those models have also been in agreement that this will be an unusually to record warm airmass for early February.  Here’s the Salem 850mb temperature (5,000′ temp in C) climatology from the SPC website.


I know; lots of lines.  The thin red lines show the warmest temperature ever recorded for every day of the year at 850mb.  Think of those lines as the warmest temperature recorded on any one date around the 5,000′ elevation.  Notice that from late January through all of March the 850mb temperature has never been up to +16.  Both the GFS and ECMWF models say that on Monday afternoon/evening the temperature over Salem will be around +16 to +17!  That would be a new record (if it occurs) for us.  I’ve highlighted what models are showing in yellow and you can see it in the maps below:

As a result, I’m confident we’ll see temperatures up to 60 or higher in the 3,000-5,000′ range over and west of the Cascade Crest on Mt. Hood Monday/Tuesday.  Not east of the crest and maybe not Government Camp either because of a cool surface high east of the mountains.  You can see it on the maps above.

But what about the lower elevations?

IF it was March with the same atmosphere overhead, we’d see temperatures in the 70s early next week in the lowlands.

IF it was mid-January, I’d expect highs around 45-50 degrees as a strong inversion locks in “cool” air in the valleys.

But we’re inbetween and that’s the temperature forecast problem.  Some sort of inversion will still be present but we’re right on the cusp of the end of inversion season so it’s tough to tell how much we’ll break out of it.  We’ll also have a good 6-8 millibars easterly wind flow through the Gorge, so the areas in the strong east wind zone here in the metro area will likely remain below 60 degrees.

Similar weather patterns in early February 1963 and 1995 DID produce highs into the mid 60s in the metro area so it is very possible we see a 65 degree high somewhere in the lowlands.  This evening’s WRF-GFS run from the UW shows highs Monday in the 60-65 degree range in our area and that’s pretty much what our 7 Day forecast shows.  Earlier this model had shown even warmer temps but this seems more reasonable now.


Now these have all been just weather nerd details…the big picture shows lots of sunshine Sunday-Tuesday and very warm temperatures…Enjoy!

By the way, record highs at PDX are 62, 64, 62, 65 for Sunday-Wednesday.  We’ll see if we beat one or two of those.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

ECMWF Monthly Run

February 4, 2016

Last night was another run of the ECMWF ensembles out to 32 days.  That takes us into the first week of March and it looks mild, or at least ridgy with no sign of stormy weather.  Winter is over if this theme continues.  Well, actually “winter was over around January 5th” will be more accurate if this is the case.  This 2nd half of winter should not be a surprise in a strong El Nino season.  Generally most action happens the first half of the wet season in these years…not always, but often.  For the past few runs I’ve noticed some sort of cool spell around the 20th (give or take a few days), but now on this run the ridge is a bit closer so that has disappeared.



Week 2


Week 3


Week 4


The 12z ECMWF and GFS ensemble charts say the very warm weather coming next week will be followed by near average 850mb

temps beginning around Valentine’s Day.




More on the record warm temperatures coming early next week in a few hours…

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

El Nino Update

February 3, 2016

9pm Wednesday…

Just a quick (or maybe not so quick) update on how we’re doing with El Nino so far this winter.

Average temperatures across the USA in December/January:


Much of the West has been warmer than normal, mainly the northern half;  Cooler than normal across much of the southern half of the West.  That is about what we would expect in a strong El Nino year with warmer than normal temps across the north due to more frequent ridging.  Yes, it’s been another mild winter, but nothing like the warmest ever we saw last year.

What about rain/snow?  I think we all know the answer; it’s been very wet.  150-200% of normal across NW Oregon and SW Washington.  Most areas along the West Coast except far southern California have been well above normal.  The interior is a bit more of a mixed bag.  What sticks out most is that extreme southern California has been relatively “dry”…only running about average.  One theory for the lack of strong systems way down there (as opposed to other strong El Ninos) is that the unusually wet jet stream has been pushed farther north this time around.  That possibly due to a shift in the warm water along the equator OR the warming climate.  Those are just guesses.  It seems to me we have seen more subtropical ridging near the West Coast than we would typically see in an El Nino winter, but I could be wrong…just an observation.  Of course we still have February/March to soak those areas down south, but there is no sign of a significant change in the next 10-15 days.


This is what I wrote back in the fall (and it’s still on the tab on the top of this page)


The drier part didn’t happen but the mild part did.  #2, #3, & #5 have worked out fine.  We never had a big regional flood, but plenty of localized flooding back in December.  We sure didn’t have an arctic blast either, that doesn’t surprise me.

It’s beginning to appear this wet season/winter is going to be remembered for a VERY wild December (through Jan 3rd) and that’s it.  The rest being mild/wet but quite boring.  That’s assuming we don’t have a total change coming up around mid-February of course.  Yesterday Cliff Mass had a great posting about El Nino (my inspiration)…more maps and charts here:

Okay, let’s talk Cascade snow too.  That seems to be working out quite well.  If you recall, EVERY El Nino since 1970 has brought below normal snow to Gov’t Camp (4,000′).  That’s continuing this year.  Govy has seen 109″ so far this season, 149″ is normal through the end of January.  Every month except December has been below average.  If average snow falls in February, March, & April, we’d still end up with 225″ for the season, below the 270″ average.  Here’s the chart for Govy with the SO FAR numbers in yellow..much better than last year!


Higher up, at Mt. Hood Meadows the season total is of course much higher…271″ so far. Below are the number SO FAR in yellow for them compared to Govy.  This winter seems to be a case of warmer storms keeping the best snow up high…that is what we thought might happen.  I don’t have the average numbers by month up at Meadows so I don’t know how they would end up with average snow from here on out.  Again…FAR better than last year!  And we’ve already passed up the bad El Nino years of 91-92 and 04-05.


Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 409 other followers