Nasty Emails

October 17, 2011

I put this on my Mark Nelsen Facebook Page today…a nasty email from a viewer.

Mr. Mark Nelson,

   You and your fellow employees told your viewers that last week, including myself that there would be at best little to no rain… Please DON’T stand up there and give yourself a good grade this Monday night…You Blew It again…

   You should take lessons from channel 6 weather, they are spot on…

   Do I expect you to write me back, absolutely not… So please don’t stand up there this Monday night and make a fool out of yourself… I think that you only because I’m in a good mood, You GOT NO BETTER then a D…

               Dr. XXXXX XXXXX / Ph.D.


Nice eh?  Now here is the same letter with my comments in red:

Mr. Mark Nelson nice check on spelling…it’s NelsEn,

   You and your fellow employees told your viewers that last week, including myself that there would be at best little to no rain very true, we screwed that up… Please DON’T stand up there and give yourself a good grade this Monday night…You Blew It again…thanks for the news flash

   You should take lessons from channel 6 weather, they are spot on…haha!  wait, let me climb back onto my office chair!  yes, I’m sure Bruce has NEVER missed a forecast!  (Same goes for me of course)  

   Do I expect you to write me back, absolutely not I try to respond to all emails, and usually do… So please don’t stand up there this Monday night and make a fool out of yourself I try to do that every night…nothing special… I think that you only because I’m in a good mood, You GOT NO BETTER then a D…huh?

               Dr. XXXXXX XXXXX / Ph.D. really?  even with the misspelled name and nonsensical last sentence?


That was fun; it just gives you an idea what kind of emails we get at times.  We did have a tough week, but it’s all about the tone of an email…

11pm Update:  He just sent me a nastier response.  Apparently a major mistake while responding was to address him by his first name…it’s Dr. XXX XXX Ph.D.  That’s enough of that email exchange I think.


Weather tonight?  Spectacular.  Unless we get something better later next week, tomorrow should be the warmest and sunniest day of the month.  No low clouds, blue sky, tree colors at their peak, and warm temps. 

Easterly gradient (and the wind) picking up quickly through the Gorge tonight.  Peak gusts at 11pm are up to 32 at Corbett and 48mph at Vista House.  Gradient is up to 4 millibars.  The wind is also now spreading into the urban areas east of 181st avenue as well.  With the gradient increasing, this will be one of those few nights where the wind spreads across a decent chunk of the metro area during the night instead of during the daytime.  PDX low temperature forecast is a real pain as a result.  53 right now, I guessed it’ll briefly touch upper 40s before the wind may jump it back into the mid 50s after 3am.

WRF-GFS has been consistent forecasting 7-8 millibars across the Cascades by late morning tomorrow.  This is a bit stronger than what we saw a few weeks ago, so gusts to 55 at the west end of the Gorge are likely.  Probably 70 mph at Vista House for the first time this season.  The wind should blow all day tomorrow, then back off quickly in the evening.

Interesting change tomorrow night and Sunday showing up only on the mesoscale models.  They show a southerly surge moving up the coastline.  The WRF-GFS shows it surging inland as well.  Our RPM is a little weaker showing very little inland penetration.  I believe the WRF-GFS, I think it’ll be a dramatic change with lots of cloud cover Wednesday.

Beyond that…well…weak weather systems at times.  Not much rain.  Models hint at another large ridge over us the middle of next week.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Weird October Temps

October 14, 2011

We’re at the halfway point for the month; and it’s confirmed why I find it to be the most boring month of the year weatherwise (most years).

The frequent passage of weather systems and/or cloud cover has kept our temperature range quite small.  Our average temperature for the month is perfectly normal.  But daily highs have been well below average.  And overnight lows have ALL been above average.  We’ve seen no extremes, no big storms (or T’Storms), no decent period of nice weather, and rainfall has been a little above average…Dullsville.   That’s the main reason I haven’t been posting much.

The disastrous two forecast days (dry turns to rain) haven’t helped the mood much either.  A weak front sitting over the top of us has not been modeled well either in location or strength.  Models continue to show clouds breaking up and a dry weekend ahead.  We’ll see…

One item of interest is a strong easterly wind coming up Monday night through Tuesday.  A late season thermal trough develops along the Pacific Northwest coastline during that time as surface high pressure sinks down over the Rockies.  WRF-GFS shows 7-8 millibars easterly gradient across the Cascades…enough to give peak gusts around 50 mph at the west end of the Gorge like we saw a couple weeks ago.  Could be our first 70 mph at Vista House too.  This could be our last mild/warm east wind event of the year; once we get past Halloween the same high pressure will be cool and inversions set up east of the Cascades.

Enjoy the (hopefully) dry weekend!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


Big Snow In La Nina Winters?

October 11, 2011

We ran a story tonight; about the city getting “prepared for an early and harsh winter”.  That was paraphrased a bit, but that was the general idea.  Well, La Nina winters often start a bit slow and then get going later, so there’s no reason to think we have an “early winter”.

So does a La Nina winter mean we have a big snow year coming here in the lowlands?  I don’t think anyone knows.  Check out the last 6 La Nina winters’ snowfall accumulations.

Not very impressive is it?  Now in 2007-2008 there was a lot of snow once you got above about 500′.  And in 1995-1996 we had a huge windstorm, flood, and several close calls with snow.  But the big snow years recently?  Generally neither La Nina or El Nino.  That could be called La Nada (“the nothing” in Spanish).

This means there is no guarantee that we have a big snow winter coming up.  Of course the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon is only one ingredient to each winter’s weather.  There is always the Atlantic Oscillation (AO), the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and other indices that measure global weather movements and patterns.  I feel we are only just beginning to understand how these all relate and interact with each other.  The science has a long ways to go. 

Far more likely is above average precipitation and above average snowfall in the Cascades this winter.  Last year performed well for both, although timing was a bit strange (January rain and lack of snow in the mountains).

Let’s talk more about that.  It’s another good year to pick up a season pass for ski areas.  This winter will be a moderate to strong La Nina again.  Did you know 12 of the last 13 La Ninas have dumped heavier than average snowfall in the Cascades?  Some of those have been absolutely huge snow years.  Seems like pretty good odds doesn’t it?  And no, I’m not getting a free season pass or free tickets up on Mt. Hood either; that should assure you I’m totally unbiased.  The big question will be WHEN the big snow falls.  The tendency in the past has been for the heaviest of the snowfall in the 2nd half of winter (January or beyond), but last year we had a great start, quieter mid-winter, then late winter and spring was the best.  Some of the best years have been relatively quiet until well into December, then the powder starts piling up.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Fresh Podcast Online

October 7, 2011

We just recorded a new podcast and it’s online.  Someone asked me yesterday “what is a podcast?”.  Yes, she was over 40 like me.  I didn’t know what a podcast was until about 5 years ago either.  It’s a fancy word for “an audio clip that you can get off the web”.  In this case it’s like a 25 minute radio segment.  And the bonus is you can download it to a listening device such as a phone…I listen to them in my care (via phone) on the way home.

Episode #16 of the Northwest Weather Podcast was a fun one to produce.  We talked about one of the warmest Septembers on record and the big time cool down October is bringing.  Plus, the first mountain snow of the season, super volcanoes, and where the bus-sized dead satellite fell.  Both Stephanie and Sophie dropped by…in Sophie’s case she was hungry and we were between her and her food.  And did you know one big Oregon beach town was named by a group of schoolchildren?

We also have a great interview with Oregon AMS President Steve Pierce.  He’s on the show to talk about the big Winter Weather Conference coming up on October 29 from 10:00 AM -12:00 PM.

A link to the podcast itself is here.

Struck By Lightning

October 6, 2011

 We are running a story tonight about a man down in the Yoder-Molalla area that was struck by lightning on Wednesday afternoon.  Actually his tractor was struck and he was in it.  Close enough…

Anyone that has moved here from another part of the country east of the Cascades has probably noticed we can go long periods, even in the summer, with no thunder or lightning.  That’s especially obvious west of the Cascades.  Portland only averages a few thunderstorms each year; many of those are just one-hit wonders too.  By that I mean just one rumble or a couple flashes. 

The reason for the lack of action?  There are two.  The main ingredient is the very stable atmosphere over us during the warm season.  The cold Pacific assures that most of the warmer part of the year the airmass overhead doesn’t become very unstable.  To get an unstable atmosphere you need either very warm and humid air below or cold air above.  In summer it’s relatively cool at the lowest elevations compared ot the very warm atmosphere above; we don’t get strong rising motions that way.  Of course sometimes it does get very hot here, so why few storms then?  The hot weather is almost always associated with a dry airmass and sinking motions associated with an upper level ridge of high pressure. 

In the rare circumstance that we have:  a warm atmosphere, no push of cool ocean air, and some moisture in the mid-upper levels of the atmosphere?  Those are the few times we get some good thunderstorms west of the Cascades.

Looking ahead…wow…Dullsville the next week.  I think October bores me weatherwise more than any other month of the year.  We are done with extreme heat, but too early for a big freeze or snow.  Low clouds and fog increase dramatically from September; it gets darker and gloomier in general.  But still no big storms or fronts like November and December.  No windstorms either (at least during my lifetime so far).  Now when we DO get a ridge of high pressure it can be REALLY nice.  The crisp Fall days are great with the colors on the trees; but this year that has been and is forecast to be non-existent for the first half of the month at least.

Tomorrow looks especially depressing with solid onshore flow bringing dark and gloomy skies.  Maybe more so than today.  Weak lift in the westerly flow should give drizzle at times near hills and mountains.  Beyond tomorrow another weak system drags through Saturday night and Sunday morning, then maybe sometime slightly more impressive Monday and Tuesday.  Possibly a brief break the middle of next week, then more weak fronts later next week. 

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Fall Moves In Quickly!

October 4, 2011

Someone in here today mentioned that the change in season (from warm and sunny) seems to be quite abrupt this year.  Specifically the last few days.  September was the 2nd warmest on record here in Portland; now the first few days of October have been below average (the daytime highs).  That’s quite a change.  Add to this is the fact October’s temperature changes more quickly than any other month.  We go from an average high of 70 the beginning of the month to upper 50s at the end.  Take a look at the temperature graph for this entire year here in Portland:

The delayed summer really stands out.  Notice the average high usually peaks in early August, but this year you can see the warmest days were from late August to mid-September.  Look closely and see the first few days of October; a sudden drop.  Picture this continuing over the next week and that chart will have a dramatic dip.   Speaking of dips, I like that drop during the brief arctic blast in late February.  Remember that was the beginning of the cool period that continued all the way through July.

So what about the next week or so?  We are obviously in a cool pattern.  Check out NCEP’s 6-10 500mb height anomaly forecast:

A significant trough over or just west of the west coast of North America.  I notice the tendency for troughs to drop in on us when looking at the daily maps of several different models.   Here’s a look at the ECMWF ensemble (51 of them!) forecast of 850mb temp:

The blue line is the forecast temperature at about 5,000′ (in Celsius) on the main “operational” ECMWF run.  The green line is climatology through the next 16 days (the upper-atmosphere cools in October, no big surprise).  All the black lines are the different ensemble members and the red is the average of all of them.  The big message is that both the operational run and ensemble average continue mainly at or below average through mid-October.  Cooler than average weather will be the result.  Notice the -2 deg temp on October 14th is coolest of all the ensemble members.

For now I don’t see any stormy weather ahead, in fact I have no idea why there is a high wind warning out for the Coast.  The gradient is too easterly and only the windiest exposed spots have any hope of making it to the 58 mph gust criteria.  The main energy with tonight’s system is slamming into California as well.

The newsies in here are somewhat excited about the possibility for snow in the Cascades the next 24 hours.  It appears it’ll be cold enough for sticking snow down to about 5,000′ or slightly under tonight and tomorrow morning.  That is mainly Timberline Lodge.  Precipitation looks a bit weak though.  Maybe just 2-3″ max at Timberline.  I like how the flow turns westerly late tonight through all of tomorrow (always better for snow than southerly flow). 

The saying, from a former co-worker, is that “October snow comes and goes, but November snow stays and grows” is usually correct.  Unless we have near-record cold weather the 2nd half of October, the atmosphere is just a bit too warm to give us a lasting snow base down below 6,000′ in October.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen