Wet Friday Evening Ahead

June 22, 2012

We’ve escaped with mainly light scattered showers in NW Oregon and SW Washington today, but two areas of rain showers appear to be converging on us for the evening commute:

A rumble of thunder is possible, but more likely just plain old light rain.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

3,200 miles in 11 Days; Mark’s Vacation Recap

June 20, 2012

A LOT of driving; that would best describe the past 11 days of my life. 

I’ve never done a big road trip with my family so I figured we should do it big.  And we did.   On the day of the Grand Floral Parade I packed up the travel trailer, fueled up (the first of 18 gas station stops), and headed for Reno.  I got there at sunset and met my wife and two kids who had been staying with relatives for a week.

Then it was on to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone.   Did you know it’s possible to do a 4 hour trip of Yellowstone, including standing with 1,000 others watching Old Faithful do its thing?  We did.

It totalled 3,255 miles.  Longest day was about 650 from Reno, NV to Green River, UT.  That was a 14 hour day, compounded by lots of up and down on the Loneliest Highway in the USA, plus I forgot we lose an hour traveling into Mountain Time.

Here are a few thoughts:

1.  Even though I am one of the chief complainers about our cloudy and wet weather, I’ll try to complain a bit less.  It’s amazing at what a narrow strip of “greenness” we are here in western Oregon and Washington.  The entire rest of the Western USA is never far from drought if not in it.  Only the 1st 100 miles and the last 50 were real green (okay, some in northern Idaho too).  All the rest of the drive was mostly sagebrush, dry grass, and some trees at times.  Even the Rockies aren’t nearly as green as the Cascades.  You have to get up around 8,000′ or so in Colorado to see trees.

2.  Weirdest Sight?  In Wyoming I saw a pickup towing a scary old travel trailer (think “free candy”)…which was towing a trailer with 4 wheelers!  Is that legal?  Looked like a nightmare waiting to happen on a windy freeway.   Sorry, no pic, but really, I did see it.

3.  No Thunderstorms!  Can you believe all those days traveling in summer through Nevada, Utah, and the Rockies, I didn’t see a single flash of lightning or hear a rumble of thunder?  Ughhh, no exciting weather at all.  Lots of sunny warm days and very cold nights in spots. 

4.  Favorite Places.  Grand Teton National Park was my favorite, and beautiful.  So was Yellowstone, but leaving Old Faithful I felt like I was in a mall parking lot looking for my car…too many people and too big.  I did feel that it was important to share in that time-honored American tradition of going faster than the speed limit in a national park.  Wow…45 mph maximum for about 50 miles…slow.  Oh, and at one point I had to slam on the brakes because the fancy sports care ahead of me slowed down to take a (moving) picture of some sort of wildlife.  Pull off the road!

5.  Most Interesting Spot I Didn’t Know About.  Quake Lake was formed in 1959 when a huge landslide came off a mountain, damming the Madison River (just NW of Yellowstone Park).   You can see all the dead trees still sticking out of the water.   This is a picture of the mountain, still bare after 50+ years. 

6. Dumpster Fire at Truck Stop in Ritzville.  This appeared to be the most exciting event for our kids…on the last day.  Pulling into the gas station, flames were leaping out of a metal dumpster.  I just shrugged and mumbled “it’ll burn down, at least they’ll have more space for garbage”.  Instead my son leaped out and did a running commentary on the firefighters arriving.  He’ll probably be posting that HD video on YouTube I suppose…good times.

7.  Why can’t we pump our own gas in Oregon?  So bizarre…and I even grew up here!  I could get in and out of a gas station in 3-5 minutes easily in other states.  Here I have to wait for someone to come out.  Sometimes on the way home at midnight it’s quite a wait.

By the way, I wouldn’t advise doing all that driving in such a short period.  We decided to do about half that mileage next year during the same period. 

Speaking of mileage, at each stop I kept a running tab on miles, gas used, mileage, and cost.   We were pulling our hybrid travel trailer with a Toyota 4Runner.  It normally gets about 18 mpg, but I only average 11-13 mph towing.  Note the really bad mileage at the end.  Strong west wind from Butte, Montana all the way to Hood River (briefly calm in N. Idaho).

Vacation Time

June 8, 2012

I’m on vacation through Tuesday the 19th, so likely no blog postings.  Feel free to continue discussing weather (if there is any) in the comments below.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

9:10pm: More Lightning

June 8, 2012

Apparently we’re not quite done with lightning yet.  We just had two strikes in East Portland:  One near 150th/Division and another near 158th & Burnside.

Line of Storms Moving Through East Metro

June 8, 2012

They are moving quickly…maybe 40 mph, but a line of heavy showers has suddenly produced a bunch of lightning strikes…6 in the past 15 minutes from northern Oregon City up through Milwaukie/Clackamas/Happy Valley areas.  They’ll be out of the metro in less than 1/2 hour.

The chance for hail and thunder continues through 6-8pm.

El Nino “Watch”; Might Develop This Summer

June 7, 2012

 NOAA issued an official planet-wide “El Nino Watch” today.  But what does it mean???  They say the odds have increased to 50/50 that El Nino conditions will develop in the tropical Pacific Ocean.  That’s a warming of the ocean waters; which leads to changes in weather patterns all around the globe.  You can read all the technical details here.

The possible development of a new El Nino isn’t a surprise, considering climate models have increasingly been hinting we could slip into it the past few months.  The two-year long 20010-2012 La Nina died late this past Winter and Spring, so we are in “La Nada” territory right now.  NOAA likely issued the press release today since starting in June the models tend to do much better at predicting the future state of El Nino/La Nina compared to earlier in the year.  They are notoriously unreliable from February through May each year; that was reinforced by a talk at the Pacific Northwest Weather Conference this Spring up in Seattle.

How will this affect summer 2012?  To be honest I have no idea.   And a good correlation between summer weather and ENSO (El Nino/S. Oscillation) has never been found.

So, for fun, I plunged into the record books.  Since the early 1960’s we’ve only had 5 summers in which we were transitioning from a La Nina winter to an El Nino winter afterwards.  Here is what happened:

Summer 1965  Average
Summer 1972  Hot
Summer 1976  Cool
Summer 2006  Hot
Summer 2009  Hot

Of course this is a very small sample AND we don’t know yet if an El Nino is actually going to develop.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Warmest Spring on Record in USA

June 7, 2012

NCDC says March-May was the warmest on record here in the USA.  As mentioned in a previous post, that wasn’t the case for us and we were wetter than average.  But just about every other part of the country has been quite warm.  Notice how much of the USA has the bright red, indicating “Record Warmest”:

That’s not the only warm weather record.  So far, 2012 is the warmest year on record here in the USA.  The “record” goes back about 110 years.

Here is a summary of the “Warmest” USA records

1.  2nd Warmest May

2. Warmest Spring (March-May)

3. Warmest year so far (January-May)

4. Warmest 12 month period (June 2011-2012).


The complete report is on the NCDC website here: