Thin Snowpack

January 27, 2010

It’s snow survey time again…so what has changed in the past month in the Cascades? Not much. Several rainy periods interspersed with some sunshine and finally a decent dump of snow.  I notice most of the highest elevation SNOTEL sites are running in the 60-90% of average range, while the lower elevations (below 4000′) are really pitiful.  We’ve had little or no snowfall in the last 4-5 weeks below 3,000.  This location in the image is on the low side with only half of the average snowpack for this date on the ground.  So one could sum up our snowpack situation by saying it’s well below average and there COULD be water problems this summer, but it’s still early.  A wet February or March could bring us back up to average.  That said, considering we are in a full-blown El Nino Episode across the Pacific Basin, it’s unlikely we’ll get normal or above normal precipitation during the month of February or at least the first part of March.

Not much going on weatherwise for the last 4 days of the month.  February begins Monday, and it’ll be good to move on to a new month.  Do you realize almost nothing of any significance happened in January 2010 weatherwise?  Sure we had that weak south wind storm mid-month.  But we haven’t even had a frost yet in Portland or Salem!  If we don’t get a 32 degree reading at PDX by Sunday night, it’ll only be the 2nd time with a “frost-less” January here.  Remember the last one was just 4 years ago.

Looking beyond, still pretty quiet next week…splitty flow, but MAYBE a bit wetter.  We’ll see.  Next post is next Monday…I have a few days off.  Everyone behave!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

A Messed Up Forecast & World Wind Record

January 26, 2010

The 12 hour forecast (rain/snow) valid at 4pm this afternoon. From the 12z WSI-WRF model we use here at KPTV.

You’ll definitely want to click on the image to get a better look, but we sure missed the afternoon showers today.  Last night the same model showed showers developing over the Coast Range and drifting out over the northern Valley this afternoon.  I discounted it, assuming this model was once again over-doing the precipitation.  But it was right on.  Actually the batch of showers has been sitting directly over north Portland and Vancouver for almost 3 hours!  Obviously it’s not a “high impact” event like the surprise snowstorm, but still a very annoying screwup in the forecast.

Before we move on; due to today’s events I should clarify that there are NO nude photos of me anywhere on the internet, so please don’t bother searching.

Okay, now that’s out of the way…did you hear about the new world record windspeed?  253mph!  And it didn’t just happen yesterday, it was 14 years ago!  Check it out here.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

MDA Ride & Stride

January 25, 2010

Hey folks, we are joining with MDA this year to promote and participate in the Annual Stride & Ride.  It takes place Saturday morning, February 6th from 8-10am at Lloyd Center Mall right beside Nordstrom.  That’s just a little less than two weeks away.

It’s a wonderful way to raise money for our local MDA folks (Labor Day Telethon sound familiar?) by walking around the mall a couple of times.  Lots of other activities for the kids too, but it all benefits those with one of the Muscular Dystrophy diseases.  I am forming a team of KPTV/KPDX employees and inviting viewers to join us as well, or at least donate what they can.

If you want to help out, you have two options:

  1. Join me there as a member of the team…send me an email at , I’ll put you on the team.  You are asked to raise $100 either on your own or from friends/family.
  2. Donate online…go to this link.  Very straightforward:


Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

AMS Meeting Tomorrow

January 22, 2010

There is an Oregon AMS Meeting Tomorrow in East Portland.

When: SATURDAY, JANUARY 23rd 2-4pm!
Where: STARK STREET PIZZA – 9234 SE Stark Street
Topic: How to interpret weather charts and model soundings, with AMS Councilor, Steve Pierce.

This will be a great opportunity for beginning / amateur weather enthusiasts to learn about how to interpret weather charts and model soundings (great for forecasting potential snow events). We hope you can come.

Check for updates at our website:

Oregon AMS

Is Winter Over?

January 21, 2010

The short answer is…very likely not.

But how about that weather today!   I rode my bike this afternoon here at work and it felt like March.  The sunshine after the morning sprinkles was very nice!  Temps surged again into the 55-60 degree range, about 10 degrees above average.

I just checked the monthly numbers for AST, PDX, SLE, EUG, RDM, & PDT.  All are running 5 to 8 degrees above average this month, completely negating the cold weather of December.  It looks like it’ll turn more average for the last week of the month, but January 2010 will definitely go down in the record books as a warm one.  As of today it’s the 3rd warmest January on record here;  right after 2006.

BUT, I don’t want to hear any whining about the mild weather yet from you weather freaks:

1. We can get a decent arctic blast into about the 2nd week of February. That gives us a 3-4 week window now in which we need to keep a close eye peeled to the north.  After that, daytime temps climb dramatically on sunny days due to the increasing sun angle.  So we can get a chunk of arctic air the latter part of February, but the sunshine pushes us up into at least the 30s.  It was 2006 when that happened; one day in the 30s and then it hit 40 the following day.

2. We could get an “all-day” type snow event through the last week of February or first few days of March. And yes, I know a trace or so could fall even in the lowlands in the month of March, but that is very rare.  We all remember 2008 and the spring break snow in the hills.  But even then no day had a high temperature lower than 46 degrees at PDX!  So you’re dreaming if you think we’ll get significant snow in March.  Oh, make sure you copy-paste that last statement so you can throw it back in my face when if we ever get a 10″ snowfall for spring break.

3. Should I unwrap my pipes or take my snow tires off? NO.  As I just mentioned, we could easily get a snowstorm, and your pipes should stay wrapped for the next 3 weeks or so.  Now if we get to Valentines Day and there is no sign of a cold snap at that point, then go ahead and turn the faucets back on.

Speaking of the next few weeks, it looks to me as if we are heading maybe a bit more “splitty” with a better chance for cooler easterly flow at the surface returning again.  Next week doesn’t look very exciting to me, although the GFS appears wetter than the ECMWF.  It (ECMWF) has very little rain next week at all after Monday morning.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

The Big Avalanche

January 21, 2010

You probably heard about this the last few days; on Sunday night a major avalanche begin near the summit of the southeast face of Mt. Hood.  It travelled all the way down into the edge of the Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Area.  Luckily that part of the ski resort (Heather Canyon) was closed at the time.  The ski area has a great write-up and impressive pictures on their blog here.

A Warm Month

January 19, 2010

This was a great day to get outside.  I actually took a bike ride midday under the swaying trees…a bit scary at times up in the Cascade foothills today with gusty downslope winds.  But with temperatures up near 60 degrees it felt like March.  It has been a very mild month.  I see Salem is running +6.8 degrees from average and Portland over 5 degrees so far.  And there’s no big change on the way.  No model shows a blast of cold air or snow to low elevations in the next 7+ days.  Do you realize neither Portland or Salem have even seen a frost this month so far?  Strange…I think it was 2006 when we went without a frost at PDX the whole month.  But as we know…a lot could change in the next 10 days.

In the short term, the east wind backed off this afternoon after a wave went through, but approaching low pressure system #3 this week should really tighten up the cross-Cascade gradient by midday tomorrow.  So I think it’ll be a windy and mild afternoon again on Wednesday.  Some rain may fall at some point tomorrow, but it won’t be much.  That deep low makes a very slow move up the Coast late tomorrow night and Thursday, negating any good chance for strong south wind in the Valley.  I’m sure it’ll turn windy at the beaches, but other than that this one could be a snoozer inland with no significant wind OR rain.  I really like the sub 980 low that moves into SE Oregon on Friday…you don’t see that very often!  Lots of snow in the Great Basin coming up…

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen