Weekend Update: Nice, but not Hot

June 30, 2011

I posted this image last night on our Facebook page (fox12weather), plus showed it on-air.  It always surprises me how nice MOST of our 4th of Julys have been the past 8-10 years.  In fact 1/2 of the past 8 holidays we’ve seen high temps at or above 80 degrees. 

This weekend sure won’t be hot;  I heard a radio DJ say that it would “be a hot weekend” just yesterday and almost burst a blood vessel while driving.  That’s one of the reasons you shouldn’t rely on a 5 second radio forecast for your weather info.  Of course if it comes from a meteorologist you’re fine.

Over the past 5-6 days we’ve seen a steady decline in forecast upper-level heights this upcoming weekend.  As of last Friday-Saturday, models were showing a huge and hot upper-level ridge over us.  As of tonight, it appears to be just flat and weak ridging overhead tomorrow/Saturday and again on Monday.  In between, an upper-level disturbance passes overhead, basically “denting” the ridge, on Sunday.  So quite a marine push gives us solid morning clouds at the Coast and Western Valleys Sunday.  I lowered the forecast high to 73 for Sunday in anticipation of cloud cover lingering much of the day.  There may be low clouds again briefly Monday morning (the 4th).

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Episode #8 Weather Podcast

June 29, 2011

It’s online here:  http://nwweatherpodcast.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/episode-8-summer-begins-record-tornadoes-and-nws-meteorologist-steve-todd/

Steph is in for Mark in this episode, while he was attending the AMS Broadcaster Conference in Oklahoma.  They talk about the start of summer, a record year for EF-5 tornadoes in America, reveal our “Cities of the Week,” and talk to Meteorologist in Charge at Portland’s National Weather Service, Steve Todd.

Larch Mountain Snow Gate Open: June 28th!

June 29, 2011

 The Larch Mountain snow gate is open.  While flying into PDX Saturday evening, I could look down and see the parking lot covered in snow, but the road appeared to be clear. Multnomah county crews cleared the snow and put up the sign that says “Road Closed by snow 10 miles ahead” just yesterday. 

Larch Mountain Road is the highest paved road in Multnomah County (up to about 4,000′), but a snow gate at the 2,600′ elevation is closed each Fall since the road is not plowed higher up during the winter.  The top is about 17 miles off of Exit 22 on I-84.  That’s maybe 50 minutes from downtown Portland.

Lightning Overnight?

June 27, 2011

Starting to feel a bit humid out there this evening with dewpoints rising and the cloud cover.  Of course that would be “Portland Humid” with a dewpoint still below 60 degrees…it ain’t exactly the Deep South!  A deep upper low is centered several hundred miles west of Coos Bay.  It won’t move in over us, but drop south to right around the San Francisco Bay area by Wednesday morning.  A very juicy front is offshore, and it’s raining pretty much everywhere from the Coast Range west.  The band of rainfall may not make much more inland progress since the low is dropping to our south. 

Of most interest the next 8 hours is an upper-level shortwave (similar to a ripple in a stream) that swings north through Western Oregon overnight and ends up in Washington by daybreak.  Both the WRF-GFS and our RPM show rain spreading north at the same time.  Our RPM has a very clear southerly flow type thunderstorm signature (see image above), showing storms breaking out over the Central Oregon Cascades around 8pm and then spreading north during the night.  The flow is almost straight southerly, so not much chance of anything over us (according to this one model), but if our model is correct, we could see a nice light show to our east between 10pm-2am.  We’ll see how it plays out.  The WRF-GFS shows a more solid band of moderate to heavy rainfall spreading north overnight.  That WOULD seem to match up with the current radar imagery better.  They both imply a very mild night; as soon as rain falls it’ll get quite humid too. 

Beyond that, Wednesday we’re into a westerly upper-level flow, marine airmass, and the usual light showers.  Plenty of cloud cover too.  After that the only forecast issue is only low cloud cover and how warm temps get.  We have a nice spell of summer weather beginning Friday and continuing through the middle of next week.  At this point it sure doesn’t appear hot, just warm with a minimum of morning clouds. 

Looks like summer will arrive BEFORE the 4th of July this year.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Broadcast Conference Day 2 & 3

June 24, 2011

Two more days of very good technical information here in Oklahoma City.  Hot and sunny weather (highs around 100) has been the rule, with one weak thunderstorm that moved through about 11pm last night.  Since it has been windy with relatively low humidity, it has been quite tolerable, especially after 6pm.  Here’s a nice little “Portland Weather Family” photo from yesterday.  The guy on the left then I suppose would be “Uncle Jeff Renner” from KING-TV in Seattle.  See?  We’re all friends…until a big snow forecast shows up of course.  The food has been good again too.  Last night it was the best crab cakes I’ve ever eaten along with spicy red beans and rice.    aggressive panhandling mallard ducks were wandering all throughout the tables too, including one that briefly nibbled on my toe…felt just like I was at home.  Speaking of that, quite a bit different from downtown Portland, almost no homeless or panhandling folks.  Not sure why.  I haven’t seen a single bicycle in 3 days either, plus they tend to not pay attention to people in the crosswalks.  I almost got run over twice.  We are courteous drivers in the Pacific Northwest.

Here are some highlights from my conference notes:

1.  Polarimetric Radar:  All WSR-88D (NWS) radars in the Pacific Northwest will be upgraded next Fall to dual-polarization.  The new radar near Aberdeen will be one of the first in the country with it later this summer.  What does it mean?  Basically scanning will be done in both the vertical AND horizontal, which allows determination not only of target size (size of hail, rain etc…), but now the SHAPE of the target as well.  The graphic at the top of the post gives you the basic idea.  Since each hydrometeor has a specific shape (hail or dry snow, or wet snow) we’ll have a much better idea of what is actually falling.  For example, the radar will be able to detect the “melting layer”, the elevation at which snow is changing to rain.  Pretty useful with that new radar eh?  We will now know how low the snow level is in the air as it’s approaching the coastline.  Plus hail will be easier to detect.  Apparently it’ll be easier to remove birds and dust from the radars as well.  This will all be working for this upcoming winter.  Some nice long training courses for it are at this address:  http://www.wdtb.noaa.gov/courses/dualpol/index.html

2.  Wind Farms & Radar:  Some trouble in parts of the country with wind turbine farms and radar interference.  Obviously they stay in the same spot, but it throws off the algorithms for mesocyclone and tornado detection (where farms are relatively close to the radar).  Here’s a related wrinkle too; apparently 3G networks are beginning to show up as “spikes” on radar displays too.  We’ll see how that gets dealt with.

3. National EAS Test:   Do you know the actual reason for the EAS (used to be EBS) system?  It’s so the President of the USA can quickly speak to all Americans in case of a national crisis.  When he/she is NOT using it, the system can be used for other civil emergency or preparedness tasks.  Of course you know it’s used for Tornado Warnings in most of the country, and occasionally here in the Pacific Northwest for Severe Thunderstorm Warnings.  Well, it’s NEVER been used by a President so it’s never been tested for that purpose.  But on November 9th this year, all USA TV stations will be tested at the exact same time for about 2 minutes.  That means all programming will stop.  They didn’t say what time of the day it would occur.

4.  NCEP Model Update:  A few brief notes.  The ECMWF continues to be a better model than the GFS, but the UKMET surpassed the GFS in 2009.  Of course all models are getting better and better.  GFS resolution (space between grid points) went from 35 to 28 km. last summer.  That’s out to  7.5 days, then its 70km resolution.  That’s why maps look coarser beyond 1 week too.  NAM will go through a big upgrade in August.  It will start using the NEMS model instead of the current WRF.  The NAM will stay as 12km resolution through 84 hours…but a new 4km CONUS domain will go to 60 hours.  that’s a very impressive model resolution…will it do better with surface lows this winter?  We’ll see.

Tomorrow is a tour of the National Weather Center in Norman.  That includes SPC and some other research areas.

Back in Portland, a pretty decent weekend shaping up with the marine layer really thinning down, with even a hint of brief offshore flow Monday.  Combine that with 850 mb temps up in the 10-14 degree range and the last few days of June; we should get at least a few degrees above 80 on Monday.  A trough swinging in Tuesday or Wednesday brings the showers back.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Columbia River Flooding Is Over

June 23, 2011


Good news, the month long spring flooding of the Columbia River has  ended.  The river is below flood stage now in the Metro area after dropping about 2′ in the past 4-5 days.  It’s forecast to fall another 2-3′ the next week or so.  The river never got quite as high as it did during the spring flooding in 1997, but it was within a foot.

Weather Conference Update: Day 1

June 22, 2011

  This evening I walked past two notable landmarks in Downtown Oklahoma City.  That was right after my first ever Fried Okra at “Earl’s Rib Palace”.  It was really good along with the other great food, but they probably have high blood pressure or cholesterol in this part fo the country?  I digress slightly…the first landmark is the corporate headquarters of Sonic Drive In.  If you like those burgers or restaurants, well, apparently this is where it all begins.   However the building appeared to just contain the same cubicles you’d see in any other office.  See how exciting that is on the left?  Of more interest, especially to someone like me who loves history, is on the right.   It’s the Oklahoma Land Run Monument.  Very impressive brass sculptures of horses, wagons, and people racing across the prairie on April 22, 1889.  In one day 50,000 people went from the starting line to staking claims on 2 million acres.  You can read about it if you click on the link above.  Or, like me, you could suffer through the movie Far And Away for 2+ hours to see a re-creation of the event part way through.  I should warn you that would include 2+ hours of some annoying acting.

It was 98 degrees and sunny here today.  That was with very low relative humidity so it felt REALLY good.   This evening was great walking around with temps in the 80s after sunset.

Two interesting conference highlights today:

1. New 1981-2010 Climate Normals: 

Every 10 years NCDC (National Climate Data Center) releases updated 30 year averages, normals etc… for weather stations all across the USA.  Of course each time a new decade is added and the old is dropped off.  In this case we’ll lose the 1970s and gain the 2001-2010 period.  That new data will be available July 1st (a week from Friday) on the NCDC website here: 


2. A Weather Expo:

For those of you that have been around as long as me, you may remember the name Miles Muzio?  I watched him on KOIN-TV while in high school.  He was on in the mid-late 1980s.  He moved on to TV weather in St. Louis, Hartford, and then Bakersfield, CA.  He’s now involved in a project to create a “weather expo”.  The plan is to convert 100 acres north of Denver into a museum, experiential exhibit, restaurant, research building, and advocacy center.  All about weather.  The experiential part was most interesting to me.  It would have something like 6 different climate “rooms” which would be representations of different climate areas of the earth, including plants, humidity, temperature etc…  Imagine walking from tundra to tropics, to desert to temperate in just a few minutes.  Their website is here:  http://www.wxpo.org/

Moving on…not much to talk about weatherwise at home.  Big thunderstorms that dumped more than an inch of rain on La Grande this evening have moved east.  Marine layer surges inland even stronger tonight, so not much hope of signficant sunshine until MAYBE Saturday afternoon.  Temps remain well below average through Saturday as well.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen