Too Much Fun With No Radar

September 19, 2011

Sometimes this job is tough, but other times the fun is just too much to handle.  For example this weekend I saw this blurb on KGW’s website…

You see, the National Weather Service radar is down for maybe 10 days (should be up within a couple of days) due to the big upgrade.  It was done this time of year to avoid 10 days of no radar in winter…good choice of course.  But the funny part is the one time the National Weather Service radar isn’t running is the same time KGW’s radar is down too.  No one had radar imagery over us this past weekend.  I had noticed the same thing last week on the afternoon we had showers move through.

Ha! One would think that after spending, what, a million bucks? (well, that was maybe 13 years ago), but yearly/monthly maintenance costs, and the thing doesn’t work during the one time the NWS takes their radar down?  I also think I remember an outage for many weeks or maybe a couple of months on that radar within the past two years.  It’s just great irony.

I’ve had bosses ask if it’s really worth it in our climate considering the tremendous outlay of money.  The answer would be a resounding “No”.  With our total lack of severe weather here, I doubt the average viewer would care and/or notice the difference between a station-owned radar and what the other 3 stations in town use.  The delay between having your own radar and the live feed from any of 5 Nexrad sites is at maximum two minutes and as little as 10-20 seconds.  If we were tracking supercell thunderstorms (or even plain thunderstorms) regularly it would be different; that’s why it’s common for stations east of the Rockies to own their own radars, even though they are weaker than the NWS 88Ds.  But here in the maritime Pacific Northwest that time won’t matter while tracking little green and yellow blobs.

And don’t get me wrong, if the boss walked up to me and said, “we’re buying you a new radar”, I’d jump up and down with excitement.  More weather tools are always good.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Fresh Podcast: End of Summer and Weather Guys in Hot Tubs

September 19, 2011

We just finished another podcast folks…Steph says this was one of the most entertaining, so listen up here:

Warm Week Ahead

September 19, 2011

After some very gray weather (my wife claims her SAD was already kicking in), we have a really nice week ahead.  Upper level ridging gradually builds over us, briefly gets squashed around Thursday, then the ridge rebounds quite strong, but slightly farther east over the upcoming weekend.  Check out this nifty little piece of weather geekery:

The future (and present too) of numerical modeling of weather patterns is in running “ensembles”, or many versions of one model.  In this case it’s the ECMWF model, run by the Europeans.  It’s the overnight run/runs.  What you see is a plot of 850mb. temps for the next 16 days.  850mb. is about 5,000′, or near Cascade Pass elevation.  The location is directly over Portland, Oregon.  Last night at 5pm is the far left side and Monday night the 3rd of October is on the right.  You can glean more information from this plot than you might initially think.  MY first thought would be…what a mess!  Click on the image for a larger view.

Note the thick lines: green is the average temperature for the next 16 days.  About +11 right now down to +9 or +8 in early October.  The blue is the OPERATIONAL run, which is the actual ECMWF run we would all look at in map form.    The red is the “ensemble mean”, which we all learned in 4th grade math means the average. 

I get this info out of the chart:

1. The next week is just about guaranteed to be above average, by just about all ensemble members.

2. The operational run peaks out around +24 on Friday afternoon, but the ensemble average is around +20.  Watch out about getting too crazy with forecast highs, the operational run is at the high-end that day.  But the following day (Saturday) the operational run is in the “middle of the pack”. 

3.  8 days from now, next Tuesday, the operational run is near the bottom of the pack, so the sharp trough shown then may be incorrect.

4.  Note how the model runs diverge over time into a spaghetti-ish mess?  By this Sunday afternoon (only 6 days away!), all of these runs indicate either an 850mb temp somewhere between +5 or +24.  Clearly a lot of variability.  Sometimes you don’t see such a huge spread and the forecast has more confidence.

5.  There is no late September snow coming to the Cascade Passes.  No run has 850mb temps below zero through the first day or so of October…the generally mild/warm pattern will continue.

Now remember this is all gleaned just from ONE numerical weather prediction model.  You can get the same info from the GFS or GEM (Canadian) model.  Whew! 

This is when someone walks up to the weather center and says…will it be sunny and how warm this coming Sunday?

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen