The “Gorge Cloud”

Have you seen this cloud the last few days while looking from the east side of the Portland Metro area up into the west end of the Gorge?  In some east wind events it’s clearly visible from the Glen Jackson Bridge as you travel from Washington to Oregon.  I’ve been noticing  it since I was a kid around 1980, and I’m guessing it has appeared for countless generations of people, animals, and a few thousand years back…extinct animals that called the Gorge home.  I call it the Gorge Cloud; at least in my head it’s called that.  Heading home early this afternoon, I said something like “I’ve got to finally get a picture of that cloud”, my wife shrieked “no!” as I veered off I-84 just east of Troutdale.  But this is the best pic I could get with the free “KPTV-Issued” phone.  Click for a better view, but it’s still blurry.  Actually it’s barely visible in the picture now that I look at it closely.  Tyler or any of the other better photographers, please take a better picture of it at some point for our grandchildren.  Sometimes it’ll sit there for many days, and once I timelapsed it from the Skyline Cam.  It moves from left to right. 

What is it?  It’s a good indicator of the top of the cold airmass pouring through the Columbia River Gorge.  You can see the top of Larch Mountain at 4,000′ in the picture, and during these real cold outflow events it tends to be in the same location.  So I suppose the top of the cold air IN THAT LOCATION must be around 3,000′.   The cold airmass quickly thins in the next few miles as it spreads out into the east side of the Metro Area.  In the case of today it wasn’t a real stark looking cloud; sometimes if it isn’t moist enough for condensation, it’s just a line of haze.  I saw something new today too…it’s hard to see in the second picture that I took from Larch Mountain road at the
“summit” right around 1,100′ beyond the Viewpoint Inn.  This whole area has snow-covered trees (away from the east wind), but higher up on Larch Mountain the snow appears to have melted off the trees.  I could see the area around the haze was still all white from the snow on the trees.   Like a tongue of colder air coming through the saddle up there.  Good weather geek stuff!

It’s been a cold weekend; high temps in the 30s in the metro area as the cold air keeps coming in from the east.  No records here in Portland because we’ve had several cold spells this time of year in the past.  I have really enjoyed the bright sunshine, cold temps and clear/cold nights.  Quite an invigorating change from drippy 45 degree weather.  But my heat pump is working overtime and the wood pile is getting smaller…

Upper level ridge builds overhead the next three days with warmer temps aloft creating a nice inversion.  Generally in this setup the easterly wind would increase through the Gorge, but at the same time pressure is lowering to the north as surface low pressure systems move into British Columbia.  This tends to kill the Columbia Basin cold high quite a bit easier than systems coming at us from the west or southwest.  Due to that, it’s going to be a quick warmup Wednesday and Thursday as surface flow turns southerly.  Of course such a cold airmass and moisture approaching often leads to freezing rain or snow.  In this case snow is very unlikely…too warm above.  Depending on when precipitation arrives, let’s say early Wednesday morning though, temps will be quite warm up around 1,500-3,000′ as warm southwest wind will have kicked in up there.  So freezing rain is likely this time around in some spots.  What I DON’T see is a big ice storm anywhere in the metro area and probably not even in the Gorge either.  More likely (depending on when the precipitation arrives) is a few scattered spots of freezing rain very briefly.  It’s also possible that we get cloud cover Tuesday afternoon, temps stay well above freezing as the east wind dies Tuesday night, and it just rains Wednesday.  Remember that if we lose the cold easterly flow it’s REALLY tough to get freezing rain.  Something to keep an eye on.

More interesting to me is the variability of the long-range models.  Some sort of change comes late this week and early next week.  Either real cold air from the north and dry weather, or cold air from the north meets warmer systems and an active jet coming in from the west.  Either way it appears the weather action MIGHT be about to pick up again as we head towards mid-January.   Hmmm…each weekend I’ve worked this winter I think something interesting has happened; I’m scheduled to work this weekend too.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

273 Responses to The “Gorge Cloud”

  1. Kyle From Silverton says:

    Odd it’s not at this version of the blog: kptv.com/weatherblog/index.html

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

    Hey all,

    There is a new post. Has been since last night.
    https://fox12weather.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/freezing-rain-2/

  3. Snow-Zone/Monmouth-Elv200' says:

    Heavy coat of frost down here. Real cloudy and grey outside. 23.4F I like it.

  4. Ken says:

    The blog is sleepy…

  5. Andrew Johnson says:

    This is cool!

    Record Report

    Statement as of 9:32 PM MST on January 3, 2011

    … Record low temperature set at Burns Oregon…

    a record low temperature of -13 degrees was set at Burns Oregon
    today. This breaks the old record of -10 set in 1952. Burns has
    set new record cold temperatures four morning in a row… each day
    starting the 31st of December.

  6. Andrew Johnson says:

    Can somebody link me to the meteostar. I’m on a different computer and don’t have the link on this one.

  7. poolsidemike says:

    naive lurker question regarding potential for zr tomorrow overnight….as the front approaches, won’t that cause a temporary ramp back up of the east winds which will keep the lower levels cold enough in the metro area to likely start as sleet/zr?

    • Tyler in Battle Ground says:

      No, mostly because the low is approaching from the nw…and really no front moves through till Friday.

    • Sandman Aloha 300 feet says:

      Well my friend,

      The problem is that the front and pressure wave is approaching from the North West. Since is will be warm it won’t help and since it will be a low pressure it will be pulling air from the South which is warm. I will pull air out of the gorge and I would expect there to be freezing rain in the gorge until it scours out.

  8. jackfrost (beaverton) says:

    Cherie in Vernonia-

    Have you happened to go by Vernonia Pond in the last day or two? Just wondering if it’s frozen around the edges or if it’s pretty clear of ice? I plan on going out there tomorrow with a buddy trying to get him one of those surplus steelhead they threw in there.

    • pappoose in scappoose says:

      I hooked one of those once, only had 1.5 pound leader and it snapped when it jumped. Didn’t know they dumped those in there or I would of rigged up differently.

  9. W7ENK says:

    I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but the casting pond in Westmoreland Park is frozen over. Probably not very thick, but it has a skin of ice completely across. I didn’t realize it’s been THAT cold.

  10. bgb41 says:

    00Z GFS – Much improved..Thank goodness

    This is some of the most intense model riding last 2 days. Incredible swings from run-to-run.

    • bgb41 says:

      Oh yeah, BTW I really love the .33 PW when the high is 21 and 18.. Wouldn’t that be nice??

    • Boydo3 500' North Albany says:

      Brian, have you ever gone back and looked to see how the forecast model stacks up against what really happened? Just for giggles. Seems they always run too cold this time of year.

    • bgb41 says:

      I have been saving all these runs since last spring when I created the program. The GFS really seems to have trouble with high amplitude patterns and sometimes produces extreme outlandish numbers that are usually unbelievable.

    • pgiorgio says:

      another brilliant post

    • Kyle says:

      I’ll buy you a beer for that post!

  11. CorbettTez says:

    LOVE looking at the 7 day and seeing those 3 beautiful words…WINDS DIE DOWN!!!! LOL!!! Fantastic..absolutely fantastic!

    • Tyler in Battle Ground says:

      What wind? Peak here is 7 mph in the last 4 days lol

    • bgb41 says:

      Yes Tyler, Battle Ground is a very calm area as far as wind goes. I lived in Rob’s area for 13 years. I do not miss that nasty wind one bit.

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

    I just got online. Yes, I know,” My God, Rob? 5 hours without model riding or analysis? How could you!” Yep. So anyhow…

    I like 00Z. Handling of the initial trough this weekend.

    The handful of eastern troughs do not dig as sharply south. The 500mb pattern offshore looks more favorable especially the initial trough. The shortwave digs south in northerly flow and has been pulled west 100 miles. It is in a much more favorable position to dig south over the PNW. Past day 7-8 is quite close to setting us up perfectly. The overall look of the blocking high looks healthier, not as pinched. January 14th might prove interesting with a system arriving from the west-southwest running into strong east winds as an arctic front slices through the Columbia Basin.

    • Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

      The fly in the ointment continues to be embedded shortwaves in the southern jet that move into/under the ridge.

    • Jethro says:

      Oh, sure… I’ll be flying home from the real “LA-LA-Land” on the 15th and GFS la-la-land is trying to shut down PDX! Oh well, at least it looks like I’ll have perfect weather in SoCal next week.

    • pappoose in scappoose says:

      Must always be alert to the monkey in the wrench.

    • Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

      Who knows, maybe you’ll come home to a Pineapple Express with a bow on it! You do love those, don’t you.

    • Jethro says:

      Yes Rob, I do have webbed feet! 😀 Although I must say, yesterday and today were absolutely gorgeous. I could handle more of that.

  13. Azzurri says:

    Hello, what do we have here…

    🙂

  14. Boydo3 500' North Albany says:

    The 0Z looks like a much better run in the long term with a retrograde of the offshore H. Back to square 1?

    • goducks09 says:

      LOL. Yup, back to square 1 is right…ugh. Welcome back to Winter in the PacNW folks!

  15. pappoose in scappoose says:

    NWS says maybe a wintry mix tomorrow eve

    .SYNOPSIS…AN UPPER LEVEL RIDGE OVER THE NORTHEAST PACIFIC WILL CONTINUE NEAR THE COAST THROUGH TUESDAY FOR DRY WEATHER. THE UPPER RIDGE WILL FLATTEN A BIT TUESDAY NIGHT AND WEDNESDAY AS THE NEXT SYSTEM BRUSHES THE THE FORECAST AREA. BRISK OFFSHORE FLOW WILL WEAKEN BY WEDNESDAY BUT DRY AND COOL LOW LEVELS OF THE ATMOSPHERE COULD GIVE A LITTLE BIT OF A WINTRY MIX OF PRECIPITATION TO THE INTERIOR AND IN THE GORGE TUESDAY NIGHT AND WEDNESDAY MORNING. THE
    ASSOCIATED FRONTAL BAND WILL STALL OFF THE COAST AND CONTINUE TO BRUSH THE AREA THURSDAY…POSSIBLY COMING ONSHORE AND THROUGH THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST LATE IN THE WEEK. THE MODELS ARE HINTING AT A
    DECENT COOLING AROUND NEXT WEEKEND THOUGH MODEL SOLUTIONS HAVE NOT BEEN CONSISTENT TO THIS POINT.

  16. Tyler in Battle Ground says:

    Rain!

    Starting frame 12…above freezing…
    http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~ovens/loops/wxloop.cgi?mm5d2_x_snd_kpdx+///3

  17. Tyler in Battle Ground says:

    Bye bye east wind!

    http://wxweb.meteostar.com/meteogram/link_pdiff.shtml?choice=KPDX+KDLS

    Ok, not all the way yet, but it’s already down 2 mb.

    Looks like east county gets a brief break, maybe thorough Friday? Then it looks like it’s back!

    • Sarah (E. Gresham) says:

      It’s definitely noticeably quieter outside this evening. Not hearing any wind at all from inside….though I’m sure it’s probably at least a little gusty out there still.

    • Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

      Down to 20-25mph here…

  18. Andrew Johnson says:

    23.4 currently in Silverton.

  19. vinnybob says:

    At 7 PM it was 28.2 lower tower, 30.2 middle tower and 32.2 upper tower. A perfect air inversion.

  20. AdamInAumsville says:

    23.0F already. Got down to 17.7F this morning…

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