Report from Up North

Here is a posting on the Oregon Chapter AMS website by Phil Welke…known to most of us on here by HIO-Phil.  Some good info from the Pacific Northwest Weather Workshop a little over a week ago.  I’ve gone in the past and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a bit more in-depth weather information/discussion.  Topics cover just about everything related to our weather.


Pacific Northwest Weather Workshop Report – March 5-6, 2010

I traveled up to Seattle this year for the Pacific Northwest Weather Workshop that was sponsored by the NWS, U of W, and the Puget Sound Chapter of the AMS, and was held on the NOAA campus in Seattle.

Friday March 5th:

For me, the highlights of the first session were the description and satellite photos of the Bering Sea Super Storm which resulted in Blizzard Warnings running for about 12 continuous hours in some areas across SE Alaska and the Aleutians. I believe the low peaked at about 955mb which is not unusually strong for the gulf. The record in the Bering Sea/Gulf of Alaska is about 913mb, according to the Alaska NWS staff that were present.

The other area that was interesting from a technical standpoint was the use of Thermal Wind Profiles from rawinsonde and NWS 88D Radar measurements of a developing baroclinic leaf to verify model forecast wind outputs before storm winds reach the shore. Something that should be able to be done with the Washington coastal radar when installed as well!

The second section included a presentation on the UCAR/COMET educational program that offers free online meteorological classes for those that are interested, as well as a variety of other online offerings. This looks like a good place for amateurs and possibly professional mets to improve their weather knowledge and forecast skills.

Another interesting presentation was on the Tumblebug fire and the effect a thermal trough had on it, first from increased east winds and then from the instability and low dew points induced as the thermal trough passed over it. One item that got a reaction in the room was the -5°F dew point measured at one point. Yes, a -5 dp in September, not during an arctic blast in January! Another area of fire weather that was interesting was the positive correlation between Downdraft CAPE (DCAPE) and fire growth.

Coastal status amounts/periods appear to be increasing over the last several decades in the Northwest.

The World Wide Lightning Location Network looks very cool:

Saturday March 6th:

The Howard Hanson Dam in Washington looks like a major disaster in the making. The Seattle NWS and local media are partnering to increase lead times for getting flood warnings out to cities and municipalities, in addition to the public. They have also modeled rainfall rate scenarios into their warning criteria.

The Coastal Radar is going to be awesome! It should be the most advanced radar in the country. Cliff Mass would not tell us where it will be sited, but did mention the final three locations. It looks like it will be close to the coast and will be able to scan from 0 degrees up over a very large area off and inland of the coast, which will give us a much better idea of storm structure and coast range precipitation. 0 degrees is basically straight out parallel to the ground, but of course the earth curves so that the beam rises in height as the earth curves away over distance. This is still much better than a 1 or 2 degree angle. Oklahoma NWS, which manages the radar installations, is being a bit difficult, as the local NWS is requesting that the radar be able to not only scan in a circular motion, but also up and down to read storm structure, and they don’t think it’s necessary. Cliff thinks it will be installed and operational sometime well-prior to January 1, 2012. And a big shoutout to Senator Cantwell for her efforts from Cliff.

An interesting observation from one presenter is that historic rainfall events in central California actually occur most often in La-Niña patterns and not El-Niños. In fact, the maximum event occurred during a La-Niña. One possibility is that the cold air and the corresponding baroclinic zone are pushed farther south into California, where they can be quite stable, resulting in long-term flooding rains.

There was a good presentation on the rain-snow line in mountains documenting and modeling how orographic forces push down the snow level on the windward side of mountains below what would be expected based on the free-air freezing level. This is partially due to adiabatic cooling as the air flow is pushed up over the mountain.

There was an interesting presentation on the challenges of Nowcasting and the instrumentation used for the 2010 winter Olympics by a Canadian met involved in the effort.

Jay Albrecht gave a presentation on his historical weather program. Definitely a very good effort and already used by others here at the Oregon AMS for historical weather research of station readings and weather charts. Jay has obviously put a tremendous amount of time into this and deserves applause from all of us.

George Miller gave a brief overview of the work he has done documenting Oregon tornados and gave a few examples of historical Oregon tornadoes. It was interesting to note that the word “Tornado” was not favored by professionals until the more recent past.

Regarding tornados, there were two presentations on recent Northwest tornados, the Northeast Oregon Mini-Supercell/Tornado and the Buckley-Enumclaw Washington Tornado. What was interesting about the NE Oregon event was that instability indexes were marginal at best due to morning cloud cover, but clearing aided by a dry slot moving over the area allowed the sun to heat the air mass into the corresponding dry air in a very brief period of time and generate the supercell. Regarding the Washington tornado, what came across to me was the difficulty in spotting the signature on weather radar. It could easily be missed on the screen. NWS Seattle was suggesting that, during times when there is a possibility of severe weather, one team member should be dedicated to watching the radar at all times.

Finally, the conference finished with a presentation on weather photography with great examples, of course. If you want to get good pictures, be prepared to be up at anytime of the day or night and pay attention to your weather resources, satellite, forecast, etc.

As for the format of the conference, the 15-minute time slots for presentations were right on the money, and the food and snacks were very good (Mark’s editor note:  did they have those good squishy chocolate chip cookies again??? I remember those from about 2 years ago).

Phil Welke
AMS Member

135 Responses to Report from Up North

  1. yevpolo1990 says:

    So is it me, or it looks like the sun is really active on this picture? It almost seems like there is something coming out of the left side (on the picture)

  2. Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

    Well, I’m gonna see you guys tomorrow. I hope I don’t pull a “Mark’s vacation” curse this year 😉

  3. boydo3 N Albany 500' says:

    Guys’ I’ve seen the northern lights several times in Oregon and Washington. One thing I can tell you is that you won’t see much if anything at all from anywhere near Portland, Salem, Seattle or any other city. Too much reflected light. You got to get out of town and have a nice view to the north with no big towns between you and the horizon. Then be very, very lucky.

  4. W7ENK says:

    Okay, I’m trying to finish my Corned Beef and Cabbage, but I just got a call from a friend in OC, she tells me that the Aurora activity level just spiked to a 10! It appears to have dropped back to a 7, but the activity is certainly picking up. If you can get to a place away from city light pollution, out in the sticks somewhere, with a low view to the North, I think there’s about an 80% chance of seeing some Aurora from the Portland area tonight. Best time will be after midnight, but possibly as early as 10pm. I have no idea how long this will last, but it’s worth driving a few minutes just to have a look! 🙂

    I think I’m going to head up toward Larch Mountain. I’ll wave as I drive by, Mark.

    • Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

      Hope you have a great time up there, as I’ll be in bed sleeping 🙂

      I wish I had the time to drive that far.

    • Sarah (E. Gresham) says:

      Do they close the parking lot to the Women’s Forum at night? My husband and I were thinking of trying to head somewhere up there tonight.

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      No, but you can pull out along the highway anywhere up there too.

    • W7ENK says:

      Yeah, that sucked! We drove all the way to Larch Mountain only to find the completely bare and dry road “closed due to snow” that didn’t exist. We then went back down to Crown Point, but the activity level had dropped to level 2 by 11pm, which means they’re not even seeing it in Anchorage.

      On top of that, some crazy Mexican dudes thought it’d be a great idea to drive up in their little pickup, smoke some weed, then start blasting Mariachi music so loud, I could hear the words inside my car with the doors closed from across the parking lot!
      [sarcasm]Yeah, that’s exactly why I drove all the way up there.[/sarcasm]

      So frustrating!

      FWIW, the wind was light out of the South up there at the Vista House tonight.

      NOAA still maintains that the main storm will be tomorrow.


  5. boydo3 N Albany 500' says:

    Got a green eye to the northern sky.

  6. Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

    What, why did the latest image put the activity level on 7 just now?

    • dabears (Hillsboro-Tanasbourne) says:

      Ouch, hopefully that’s just a brief fluctuation. Remember, the peak is usually 12am-2am, so the fat lady hasn’t sung yet.

    • Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

      (sighs) Hopefully thats the case! 🙂

  7. Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

    Guys, there is a healthy chance that we will see some sort of Aurora now. Activity level 10 now being read:

    This could be interesting.

    • Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

      Some orange colors are dipping outside of Cananda now, this is definitely a much stronger looking image than last night.

    • dabears (Hillsboro-Tanasbourne) says:

      Timmy, let me know if you have a good view. The way my apartment is situated I don’t have a very clear view to the north. If you can see something I’m going to take a drive out west a little away from the city lights.

    • Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

      I know a good location for this… You know down the street off Cornell, the large parking lot that is located next to Target, Haggen, Best Buy?

      That parking lot has an excellent view to the north (you can almost see the horizon).

    • dabears (Hillsboro-Tanasbourne) says:

      Yeah it does but I would imagine all the lights in the parking lot would ruin it. Hmm…

    • Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

      Hey all, its been awhile.

      Really wish I could have made the meeting, but I have had extreme vertigo/dizziness. I hope those who did go had a great time.

      As far as the Aurora’s go I still see the PNW is in the bottom of the scale on the colors. Boooo. I’m not expecting anything, but hoping we do.

      Temp: 47.7
      Dewpoint: 27
      Wind: NW @ 3.6mph

      Onshore flow is weakening now down to 1mb as we transition to offshore flow probably by early morning. Thermal trough has already developed off the northern California Coast and will strengthen/build north tomorrow.

    • W7ENK says:

      Timmy, your parking lot may not be a very good spot… the light pollution from the rest of the city will obscure your view. If I were you, I’d head West, toward Forest Grove or NW toward Vernonia… You needn’t go far, but find any road that cuts across the South side of any open field, you should be fine.

    • dabears (Hillsboro-Tanasbourne) says:

      Road trip Timmy and Yev? haha

    • Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

      Well, considering I am relying on my brother for this, not sure he’ll actually consider driving too much.

    • dabears (Hillsboro-Tanasbourne) says:

      If it actually gets to the point where there is a certain chance the aurora would be visible, you’re welcome to come with me if I decide to drive out west. Not feeling super optimistic though.

    • Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

      Soon I gotta go to bed, sorry 🙂

      Tomorrow I’ll be busy.

  8. Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

    Here is a good link about NOAA’s forecast in geomagnetic activity:

    With the latest solar x-ray image:

  9. HIO Phil (Punxsutawney) elevation 189' says:

    Interesting Radar Loop,

    Maybe some flak being blown in from off the Pacific?

  10. Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

    Yes! Auroral activity level 8!

    Please stay that way…

  11. Jesse-Orchards says:

    Wow, a low of only 37 for PDX tonight? Getting a little conservative, eh Mark? I think it could easily fall below freezing.

    • dabears (Hillsboro-Tanasbourne) says:

      I agree. Definitely potential for a freeze tonight.

    • Jesse-Orchards says:

      FWIW, raw model output has been spitting out upper 20s for PDX for several days now. With clear skies and a dry, cold airmass overhead tonight, I don’t think 30 or so would be out of the question for PDX. 31-33 is most likely, though.

      No doubt outlying areas will fall well into the 20s tonight, and possibly even tomorrow night.

    • HIO Phil (Punxsutawney) elevation 189' says:

      Feels much colder here than it is with cool dry air present. But given that the sun has just set and with a current temp of 47.7 and a dewpoint of 31 I think a freeze is very likely here in Hillsboro tonight. Already brought in some tender plants. Just can’t see where any fog or low clouds is going to come from.

  12. Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

    Shoot, the Auroral activity spiked back down to a level 6. I really hope it doesn’t continue to decline as the hours come closer…

    We are really cutting it close.

    • W7ENK says:

      Yeah, the current forecast from NOAA has the activity dropping back off tonight, with the main storm hitting sometime tomorrow, I guess. I just hope the activity remains high until after dark tomorrow. 😦

      Sorry to get your hopes up… I guess maybe I jumped the gun? 😳

    • Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

      No, we all sort of jumped the gun. I recieved email from quite a few people that we’d be seeing all these crazy explosive colors in the sky. But who knows what will happen now…

    • dabears (Hillsboro-Tanasbourne) says:

      Don’t give up yet. The current forecast is for a Kp of almost 5. That’s getting very, very close to being visible down here. A Kp6 would be a sure thing. (Keep in mind, Kp values are different than the acitivity level shown on that map.) Anyone in Seattle has a very good chance at seeing the aurora tonight if they can get away from the city lights.

  13. Ben Randall says:

    I have heard this could put internet offline and take computers out

    • Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

      Take computers out as in computers not working again?

    • W7ENK says:

      No. Who are you hearing these things from, Ben? I would tend to call such a person an alarmist, and full of sh… uh, can’t say that. [biting tongue] 😳

    • Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

      I don’t know what to believe anymore, I’d just wait for the Aurora and leave it at that.

    • dabears (Hillsboro-Tanasbourne) says:

      Not even close. Whoever is telling you these things has no idea what they are talking about.

  14. W7ENK says:

    WHOA! In just the last half hour, the Auroral activity has exploded from a level 4 to a level 8! The Southern edge of the ring looks like it could push down close to our area if this activity holds on into our nighttime…

    Let’s hope! 🙂

    • W7ENK says:

      It also looks like the Southern auroras are currently pushing up to around the 45°S – this bodes well for us!

    • Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

      Getting your camera ready? 🙂

    • Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

      If the activity level remains this high, would that possibly mean that the aurora could be early enough for me to catch it?

    • Snow-Zone/Monmouth-Elv200' says:

      And the skies are clearing up really nice here as well… Will this look similar to the noctilucent clouds we saw back in July or will there be more color if anything at all?

    • Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

      I’m sure it will be more colorful than that.

    • W7ENK says:

      It won’t be quite that bright, but if you’re in a dark place away from city light pollution, you won’t miss it.

      I’m hoping for something like this. I took this picture ~300 miles South of here back in Nov. 2004

    • Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

      I forgot to tell you that those are some nice pictures. Perhaps we will see some more of that tonight? I hope.

    • W7ENK says:

      D’OH! Activity has backed down a bit to Level 7. But, that’s where it was last night when the Southern edge of the ring was pushing close to Vancouver BC, so we’ll see what happens.

      Timmy, if there is a visible aurora, we could possibly start seeing it around 10 or 11 tonight. Really, the best time is between midnight and 2am, because that’s when the sun is directly opposite us and the oblong shape of the ring extends farthest South.

  15. Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

    Crap, found out I have to go to bed early because tomorrow morning I’ll be busy, so I’m gonna have to trust my dad with my camera later tonight. And I haven’t even told him about the Aurora yet! He gets back soon so I’ll tell him.

    • W7ENK says:

      Oops, that went in the wrong spot…

      Hahaha, you could always try to pull an all-nighter! They really suck the next day, but depending upon the reason, they’re sometimes worth it. 😆

    • W7ENK says:

      Timmy, just think of this as a rare, extremely high-based (265,000 feet), high-topped (1 million + feet) rainbow colored thunderstorm, minus the thunder. Although, some people have reported actually hearing sounds from the auroras, but that has never been proven, and those people probably just had very active imaginations. 😆

    • Punxsutawney (aka HIO Phil at work by Sunset High) ~280' says:

      Or were smoking something. 😉

    • Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

      (LOL) You got that right! 🙂

      Hey I actually got my brother to agree on using my camera tonight outside. But who knows how long hes going to stay out. Hes gonna leave after 10 minutes i bet.

  16. Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

    About what time tonight would you guys estimate the Aurora to be visible? I found a very spot for my camera to do the action and just need to know when. 🙂

    • W7ENK says:

      Well, generally around or after midnight is the best time to see it. Unfortunately, the activity has almost completely died off compared to last night. 😦 I’m hoping to see a spike in activity, but who knows.

      I’d check this map to see what’s happening before running off somewhere dark.

    • Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

      Thats not good! I hope some of that orange reaches here otherwise its not showing up for another 10 years at least.

    • yevpolo1990 says:

      yea i was actually excited when i saw that spike last night!
      but it really slowed down now…

    • W7ENK says:

      I don’t think the CME has hit yet, at least not the bulk of it. I’d start looking at the map again by about 8pm or so. When it does hit, that orange/red ring should light up nicely! I hope!!!

      Timmy, if this doesn’t pan out, there will be more opportunities. This is just the first CME of the cycle… there could be another one tomorrow, who knows? There’s still a few years left before the Solar Maximum, and then there’s the declining period, so no need to worry.

    • W7ENK says:

      FWIW, there’s an average of 5 nights per year where the Aurora Borealis is supposedly visible from this part of the globe (PDX), but that’s assuming it’s clear, and you’re looking! This also takes into account that during the ‘quiet’ part of the solar cycle, we may go several years without any sightings this far South.

      Most often, they happen in the winter. Because of the earth’s tilt, the center of the ring is offset closer the night side, which pushes that ring farther to the South (opposite the sun). Right now, because we’re close to the Vernal Equinox, the center of the ring is virtually over the pole.

    • Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

      Thanks for telling me, thats some good news. I guess my camera will be put to better use even without thunderstorm structure!

    • W7ENK says:

      Hahaha, you could always try to pull an all-nighter! They really suck the next day, but depending upon the reason, they’re sometimes worth it. 😆

  17. Low of 33° this morning. Frost on the roof tops and cars.

    • Runrain says:

      Phoenix hit its first 80 degree reading of 2010 yesterday. Kind of late. There are weeds growing everywhere here from all the past rains. Weird to see so much green surrounding the saguaros. Forecast is for 85 deg today (yeah, I know, no wants to hear these reports…)

  18. Mr Data says:

    (Feels embarresed)

    I thought that post on Western was started by Andie and not by the (other) poster whom is a 13 year old:

    Andie is one of the few smart guys at Western Weather who actually know what they are talking about and provide facts if there is any doubt. :O

    I enjoy Andie’s posts.

  19. Cherie in Vernonia says:

    Great meeting tonite. Tons of info. Lots of laughter. Thanks to all who put this together….& thanks for the glimpse of Wayne 🙂

    • Yes, it was a fun and informative meeting tonight!

      Thanks Mark for the “tour”!


    • umpire says:

      Agreed, it was a good meeting – despite a mostly boring winter! Nice to see folks, and put some more names to faces. The fun thing about weather, is that there’s always something happening, eventually, in the future.


    • umpire says:

      . . .and where are my manners! Thanks, Mark, for hosting the meeting.

  20. Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

    So, what are the chances that I would actually see these lights in an area like this? I might have drive a little down the road to see it. 😉

    • dabears (Hillsboro-Tanasbourne) says:

      Slim, but you’ll be able to check on the internet at the time to see if it’s possible before wasting time driving to a darker area. If it looks like a go tomorrow, I may drive out west on the 26 a little bit to try to get a look.

    • W7ENK says:

      You’re gonna want to see the orange ring at least touching the WA/BC border for any hope of seeing anything from here, and at that you’d need a very low view to the North. The farther South that orange ring, the better your chances of seeing something.

  21. pappoose in scappoose says:

    Quite healthy band of showers almost on us.

  22. Ben Randall Tillamook City says:

    Weather Radar is BACK !!!!!!! is there danger with the northern lights coming the next few nights ? with solar radiation

    • W7ENK says:

      I wouldn’t call it a danger… it’s more of an opportunity! The worst I’d expect to see with this event would be some diminished HF communication abilities for maybe as long as 36 hours starting mid to late afternoon PDT Local time tomorrow. I don’t expect any power disruptions with this.

      FWIW, that article posted yesterday on the Western blog was written by a 13 year old, and when matched to the official data released from NOAA & NASA, it was grossly exaggerated.

      Let’s hope skies clear out by tomorrow night. We should be able to see something low to the North!

    • Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

      Will that effect FM/AM Radio? I listen radio all the time.

    • Ben Randall Tillamook City says:

      I heard that there would be some solar radiation with it

    • dabears (Hillsboro-Tanasbourne) says:

      W7ENK brings up a very important point. That post on WesternUSAWx made by the 12 or 13 year old is filled with hyperbole and exaggeration. There are absolutely no sources out there that even come close to backing up what his post states.

      Here’s the real facts: There was a rather significant coronal mass ejection the sun a few days ago. Starting tomorrow, Earth will enter this cloud of solar particles. NOAA puts us at a 30% chance of some kind of geomagnetic activity (high frequency radio disruption, satellites having navigational issues, maybe very localized power disruptions) somewhere on Earth. They also put a 5% chance of severe geomagnetic storms, which would result in all of the above along with perhaps more widespread effects, and possibly a pretty good aurora to unusually southern locations.

      Could we see the aurora in Portland tomorrow or Thursday night? There’s definitely a possibility. Is it anything to worry about? Not really.

    • W7ENK says:

      @Timmy: Unless this becomes a severe solar storm (5% chance according to NOAA) FM radio frequencies shouldn’t be affected at all. AM might experience some fading, particularly if you were to listen to the more distant stations like 810 KGO out of San Francisco or News1130 out of Vancouver BC (both powerhouse stations can be heard easily here in Portland at night, but not during the day, and there’s a few others). But I wouldn’t expect anything local to be affected.

      @Ben: No. Solar radiation bombards the earth constantly, but we have the magnetosphere to protect us from it’s direct effects. Unless you’re planning on being up about 5 or 6 hundred miles high in the next couple days, you have nothing to worry about. 🙂 The effects we could (hopefully) see in the next couple days would be an auroral display, and possibly a quite fantastic one, depending on when the bulk of the energy gets funneled into the ionosphere at the poles.

      Here’s a picture of the only aurora I’ve ever seen. This was November 7, 2004, down over Klamath Lake.

      I can’t remember if I’ve posted this here before, but it’s a good time to post it again, maybe?

      Enjoy! 🙂

    • boydo3 N Albany 500' says:

      You got nuttin’ to worry about northern lights except the city lights preventing you from seeing them!
      Here’s my best “Oregon” Aurora.
      Bout 8 yrs ago I was visiting my folks in Bend. After dark, my brother and I decided to take a walk out on the golf course to check out the stars. We noticed a red streak just to the NW of the house. “Dad, come out here and check this out. A weird streak of light toward Mt Bachelor.” Says Dad ” Oh that’s probably just that gas station on hwy 97.”
      Several minutes passed… “Dad, it looks like the gas station is on fire cuz the whole northern sky is lit up!” Lo and behold for the next hour or so we watched the sky move around in shades of mostly red and bits of green. Never have I before or since seen such a groovy sight. But I will tell you if you hope to see the northern lights around here, you better be way out of town away from any lights and hopefully be up a couple thousand feet in elev.

    • Ben Randall Tillamook City says:

      Yeah but I heard from someone that Space radiation in possible

    • W7ENK says:

      Solar/Space radiation is not a problem if you’re on the Earth’s surface. Flying in an airplane at 40,000 feet might gain you an elevated dose of radiation, but even that is nothing to worry about, unless you’re pregnant, but even THEN, there’s such a small chance of any problem. Astronauts in orbit/space are at greatest risk because they’re outside the atmosphere, ionosphere and into the magnetosphere where exposed to all the radiation.

      Believe me, there’s nothing to worry about. Just look to the Northern sky around/after midnight tomorrow night and hope to see some dancing color! It truly is amazing.

      BTW – I think my previous comment (with pictures and a video link) got moderated… or did it go through?

    • Ben Randall Tillamook City says:

      I am also heard that a geomatic storm will happen and power will go out

    • W7ENK says:

      No. Well, almost certainly no, but there is a very remote chance of that happening – only 5% according to the NOAA.

      Honestly, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

    • Ben Randall Tillamook City says:

      Yes I know I am asking stupid questions …. so bottom line nothing bad will happen

    • W7ENK says:

      [Sorry, this got a little long, but I think it’s interesting. Also, I tried explaining this very simply, so it may not sound 100% accurate, but it’s the basic idea.]

      I don’t think you’re asking stupid questions. I completely understand your concern, this being a subject you’re probably not all that familiar with, and with an introduction such as that article, that might get me a little worked up, too.

      Let me try to put your mind at ease a little…

      The fact is, the sun is beginning it’s next ‘Solar Cycle’. On order of about every 11 (or so) years, the sun’s activity fluctuates from quiet to active and back to quiet again. Over the past few months, the sun’s activity has begun increasing from one of those quiet periods. What we are about to experience, or ‘get hit by’ is called a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). What this is, basically, is when an explosion on the sun’s surface blows away part of the sun’s outer atmosphere, called the Corona, which is made up of highly charged particles.

      Here’s a good example of one from 2001:

      Now, if this explosion happens while facing toward Earth, then the resulting CME comes our way. It generally takes about 3 days for this cloud of charged particles to reach the Earth. This happens multiple times throughout every solar cycle, the frequency of which increases as the sun approaches it’s ‘maximum’ or peak of activity. This is just the first one of this cycle (I believe) to come toward Earth, and there will probably be many more over the next several years.

      Generally, these CMEs are nothing to worry about. The Earth has several layers that protect all us inhabitants from harm, the first of which being the Magnetosphere. This is basically an invisible protective bubble, created by the Earth’s magnetic field. Because the material in a CME is electrically charged, the vast majority of it gets deflected away from the Earth by this magnetic field. This causes disturbances or deformations in the shape of the magnetosphere, and this interaction can create a LOT of energy.

      However, at the poles, the points at which the magnetic field intersects the Earth’s surface so as to pass through the core, this energy along with a small portion of those charged particles will funnel down toward the ground. When this happens, this energy ‘rains’ down into the ionosphere, which is another of these protective layers. The ionosphere has it’s own electrical energy, and when bombarded with this external energy, the two will react and create visible light in the form of the Auroras. The more external energy dumped into the ionosphere, the brighter and more widespread the Aurora will be!

      In all reality, the CME hitting the Earth today is not all that big by comparison to some of the CMEs to have hit us in the past. Yes, depending upon the size of the CME, we could be bombarded with so much energy that its effects could defeat the ionosphere and wreak havoc on our electrical systems on the ground, but that is very, very rare, and almost certainly not the case with this one.

      So, in answer to your (not stupid) question, you are correct. Nothing bad will happen to you personally. Unless you’re planning on contacting someone half way around the globe on an HF radio frequency in the near future, conditions could become pretty rough. Or, if you personally have any communications satellites in orbit, you might want to get those things into shut down mode here in the next couple hours if you haven’t done so already, otherwise you might lose them altogether!!! 😆

  23. Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

    I think this radar loop should be viewed in the presentation… It would make a good discussion!

    Were we in Oklahoma?

    • Punxsutawney (aka HIO Phil at work by Sunset High) ~280' says:

      Great Link! Love to see how visible the gust front from the outflow was over the PDX area and how it helped initiate more storms up in SW Washington, just like you might see in Oklahoma.

    • Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

      Yes, that was the first storm I remember west of the Cascades that actually had a visible outflow boundary on radar. If the sunshine would have broke earlier in the day, and with no onshore influence, I’m sure severe convection most likely would have continued into certain parts of Washington. Maybe next 45 years Seattle will get lucky?

  24. Tmmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

    I think this radar loop should be viewed in the presentation… It would make a good discussion!

    Were we in Oklahoma???

  25. Sandi (Wilsonville) says:

    Raining lightly now in Wilsonville. All is not lost. 😉

  26. Breeze has definitely picked up. The sky was kind of cool this morning – if I hadn’t known better, I might have guessed some storms were ready to fire up, the way the clouds looked and the air felt. In fact, was half believing I’d look at the radar and see that was the case … but then, of course, the radar was down.

  27. Battle Ground Brian says:

    00z GFS showing very heavy rainfall 03-27 to 04-01

    4+ Inches of rain during this time period if this output materializes.

    • Justin (Brush Prairie) says:

      15 days away…. and 4″ of rain isn’t that much for fantasyland GFS.

  28. Looks like a shot of somewhat cool, dry, east wind makes its way here early this weekend:

    • Karl Bonner says:

      Ummm….you should have posted a link to afternoon temps Mike, not just early morning ones. We’re all dying to know how much cooler the east side is than the west, as well as the temperature of the thermal trough.

    • Karl Bonner says:

  29. Cherie in Vernonia says:

    when does the radar come back up??

  30. Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

    Someones going to say we blew this forecast with rain this morning… Well, are we going to go back to the old GFS model? I was warning you guys it was faulty.

  31. Punxsutawney (aka HIO Phil at work by Sunset High) ~280' says:

    Indeed, they had lots and lots of the good chocolate chip cookies. 🙂

    This front sure has wimped out. All that moisture offshore Saturday night and barely a drop of rain so far.

    • Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

      Nice recap, Phil. The Howard Hanson Dam problem intrigues me the most.

    • Rookie says:

      Great job Phil. Will they post the presentations or proceedings?

    • Punxsutawney (aka HIO Phil at work by Sunset High) ~280' says:

      Thanks guys,

      I’m not sure about them posting though I do know they were recording the presentations on video. I would check the Puget Sound Chapter of the AMS or the UofW Atmospheric sciences department to see if they post anything.

    • Timmy_Supercell (Hillsboro) says:

      Thanks for the links, I never had a chance to see the presentations, so now I could see it on video!

    • ..of particular interest to me is the description of the NE oregon storm…..Having lived there for a long while, and working, on a daily basis, anywhere from Paradise (look it up!) to Cheatum Hollar (again LIU), I’ve seen that exact scenario played out many times…overcast humid jungle feeling morning, followed by a late morning hours long sunbreak, and holy hell breaking loose after around 3 or so….

  32. Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

    51.4 light E winds and party sunny skies. Did that front fall apart or what?

  33. Currently 38.6° and calm winds.

  34. Tyler in Hazel Dell says:

    Looks like we should get a fair amount of wind today. Today it’s the south wind, tomorrow the north wind. April we start seeing a few more days with that summer time NW wind.

    • pappoose in scappoose says:

      I enjoy the summer time late afternoon NW breezes as the only wind that can get into my place is NW,N,or NE.

  35. k5mitch says:

    54.6 F
    SE wind @ 9.1 mph

  36. Jim Ferretti says:

    Did anyone else just hear that loud explosion in SE Portland? It happened at 12:40am and shook the all the windows in my house at 125th and Steele.

    • W7ENK says:

      It was probably your neighbor’s water heater! 😆

      A couple friends live near SE 136th & Steele, and they said they didn’t notice anything.

  37. Not bad…56.7° at midnight on a mid March evening…Looks like some cool nights coming up this week however..

  38. Karl Bonner says:

    Doggone it, wish I had known about this conference!

    Anyway, on to the current weather. High clouds kept the Eugene airport at 59F this afternoon though many places in town almost certainly got into the low or even mid 60s. As soon as I saw the clouds this morning I knew we weren’t going to make 68 or 70.

    I’m beginning to seriously question whether the Airport is a fair representation of the south Valley. It seems that every time we have clear and sunny weather, either the nights or the days or both end up being slightly cooler out there than in town.

    The end of the week’s looking very exciting. Perhaps by tomorrow the forecast temperatures will have been notched up another couple degrees!

    • Jesse-Orchards says:

      I don’t think EUG is a bad station, we just haven’t had any great “heat” events so far this year. As you know, clear, sunny weather doesn’t always equate to warmth at our latitude, especially in the off season.

      Late this week/this weekend we will see low 60s at best, IMO. Looks like a lot of chilly continental air to work with early on, and 850mb temps look to peak out well below were they were even as recently as yesterday. Nights look cold the whole way through as well. If anything, I would expect temp forecasts to be notched down as the time frame approaches. I think Mark was being pretty optimistic with last night’s 7-day.

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      Haha Jesse, you love the clear, crisp weather and large temperature range (Orchards???). That’s your “thing” isn’t it? When I worked in Hood River in 1992, a friend decided to live in Dallesport, 20 miles away, just because it would have a much better temperature range than the city of Hood River. I thought that was really weird. Of course then I rented a place 17 miles south in Parkdale so I could get good snow at 1600′ elevation. Funny how each weather geek has the weather variable he/she is most interested in.

    • pappoose in scappoose says:

      Yea Mark, when I moved out to Scappoose I really wanted to get a place up on skyline or Dixie Mt. (at least 1500′) but nothing was available. I was actually lucky to get my wife out of the city (Milwaukie at the time) as she is afraid of monsters/bad guys coming out of the woods.

    • Jesse-Orchards says:

      Yeah Mark, cold/variable weather is definitely my thing, and admittedly it’s likely I have a cold bias to show for it (though I try to overcome it, it’s human nature).

      I would love to see Portland’s climate return to how it was in the 19th Century, with summer heat being infrequent (95+ practically unheard of), chilly springs and falls with lots of dramatic temp swings, and consistently cold winters (20″+ snow a season was commonplace back then, and some sort of arctic outbreak was basically guaranteed every year.)

      Of all the places to live in the NW I would probably go with the Spokane area or NE Oregon. Lots of wild temp swings, thunderstorms in the summer, and almost always cold in the winter.

    • W7ENK says:

      Klamath Falls was pretty good for that, too. That’s assuming you can look past all the tweakers, meth labs, truant children and kkkrooked kkkops… those would be some of the main reasons why I left.

    • Karl Bonner says:

      Jesse, how do you know about Portland’s 19th century climate? Were there reliable weather stations back then? I would have expected that weather records didn’t get going until the last couple decades of the century, if even that. And of course, prior to the Oregon Trail era of the 1840s-50s, nearly all the residents were natives who certainly couldn’t have kept modern-style weather records.

      Are you going by scientific climate history such as tree rings and ice records? That can give you information on the overall climate but it can’t tell you how common heat waves were or how wild the diurnal temperature swings in spring and fall had been.

      Anyway…I too like the diurnal yo-yo days a lot. I love the contrast you get between early morning and afternoon with them. That’s one thing about Eugene I would miss if I ended up moving to Portland. We get lots of crystal clear summer days with very warm afternoons (85F is pretty much par for the course in July and August), but it cools off nicely at night, even during at least the more moderate heat waves. We don’t get many nights where it stays above 60 here, and lows in the upper 40s can occur somewhat frequently in the summer.

    • Jesse-Orchards says:

      Downtown Portland has records back to 1871, I believe, and Fort Vancouver and Fort Steilacoom (Seattle area) have sporadic records back through at least the 1850s. Then of course there are diary entries and such giving clues to times even deeper in the past, the earliest I know of for this immediate area being that of Lewis and Clark when they stayed at Fort Clatsop the winter of 1805-06.

      Actually, alot of what I’ve gleaned about the historical weather of the PNW has been from wx_statman’s and Justin’s posts over on western. They’ve made some great history threads.

  39. Steve Pierce (Vancouver, WA.) says:


    Once again, this is a reminder of the AMS meeting tomorrow night (Tuesday) at the KPTV Ch 12 studios! It is our annual “Recap of Winter 2009/2010” meeting. Please help spread the word. If anyone needs to pay their AMS dues, you can do so at the meeting. $7 per year. We are always looking for new members, so please consider bringing a guest who may also be interested in weather. Hope to see you all there tomorrow night.

    See details and directions at:


    • Mark Nelsen says:

      Yeah…the recap of the “wild winter” should take about 3 minutes! Actually I’ve got the presentation done and my part will easily fill 20 minutes. Charles Dalton’s more detailed analysis of several storms should round it out nicely. Along with discussion of course!

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      One more thing. I decided not to mention this meeting on the front of my posting here since it’s at the TV station. I don’t want someone unstable to stumble across the kptv web page and then wander into the heart of our operation tonight. I’d rather have only the geeks like us/me knowing about it. That said, I can give a quick tour of the place after the meeting.

    • Gidrons says:

      I dunno Mark, are you sure we’re all stable?

  40. yetanotherguy says:


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