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:

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