Get Your Weather Station Online! (Please)

May 17, 2013

Weather Station 1

Do you own a home weather station?  Do you have an internet connection and/or a computer that’s usually on?  Then you should be sending your data out to “the world”!

The best way to do that is via CWOP

Citizens Weather Observing Program (CWOP) is the best route to go.  Once you get your weather station up and running, submit a registration to the CWOP website (http://wxqa.com/) to get a station number and start sending data.  Richard Collander at NOAA is the Program Manager for CWOP and will get in contact with you once you register.  Richard’s email address is: Randall.S.Collander@noaa.gov

Once you start exporting data to CWOP, your data will become available on the NWS mesowest webpages that are used by many, many people to obtain meteorological data.  The mesowest webpage is at: http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mesowest/gmap.php?map=pqr

The mesowest webpage has a google map background, so it’s easy to roam anywhere in the US.

There are other ways to view the data on maps.  I have a few on my webpage in the “Observations” section.

Why CWOP instead of some other online network of weather stations?

Because this network feeds directly into MADIS which is the “master collection” of observations here in th USA.  For example a TV station like KPTV can pull up most of those stations to use on-air.  The other big network of weather stations (WeatherUnderground) does NOT do so.  As a result the meteorological community does not have easy and automatic access to that data.  If you only export to WxUnderground, please get a CWOP ID and export to that one as well.  My home weather station software easily exports to both.

Some newer weather stations/software don’t need a computer running either.  WeatherLink IP (Davis Instruments) has recently been updated to allow exporting of rainfall and peak gust data, that’s one way to avoid running a computer.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


ECMWF Weekly Maps

May 16, 2013

Twice a week we receive the monthly run of the ECMWF model.  Here are the upper-level height forecasts broken down by week.  So each map is an average for the week of all the ensemble members.

500za_week1_bg_NA

500za_week2_bg_NA

500za_week3_bg_NA

500za_week4_bg_NA

Notice the cold upper low or at least an open trough is there through at least the next two weeks, pretty much what we see on the operational maps.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


Bigger Computers = Better Model Forecasts

May 15, 2013

Big weather news today!

The National Weather Service just announced they would be acquiring supercomputers with over 30 times the power  of the current generation within the next year!  This should level the playing field between the superior European ECMWF model and the Global Forecast System (GFS) models.  It took the Hurricane Sandy disaster on the East Coast to get the funding for the changes out of congress, but good news nonetheless.  It’s been well advertised not only in the meteorological community but in the media how terribly the American model performed versus the ECMWF not only with Sandy but on several other occasions.  The USA has just not been dedicating resources towards computing and it has finally caught up with us (and become a bit of a national embarrassment).

images

How about those supercomputers…what can they do?

Right now the NWS uses a system with 70 teraflops (70 trillion calculations per second).  Whoa…that’s fast, and it’s a room/rooms with many thousands of processors.  But within a year or two it should be up to 2600 teraflops!

I’m going to direct you straight to Professor Cliff Mass’s blog where he breaks it down in far more detail than I could:

http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2013/05/a-new-chapter-for-us-numerical-weather.html

Today was sure a chilly day, only 59 degrees in Portland which was our coolest day in over two weeks.  Not much rain though; no one in the metro area recorded more than .10″…my definition of a “drippy” day.

We should see some convection (rising motions leading to showers) over the hills/mountains and quite possibly over the  valleys tomorrow.  Probably not enough for hail/thunder, but there may be some brief downpours.  We’ll get these showers because we’ll see plenty of sunbreaks, in fact maybe just partly cloudy at times.  So even though it’ll be brighter with more sun and warmer temps on Thursday, it may end up being wetter in some locations.

I’ll admit I’m real bored with the weather pattern through Monday, very little going on with just a few showers or light rain here and there.

A little more interesting Tuesday and beyond next week as a cold upper-level trough settles over the Pacific Northwest for an extended stay (possibly through Memorial Day Weekend).  On the 00z GFS model you see it’s just about the coldest/deepest low in the whole western part of the northern hemisphere!

gfs_namer_156_500_vort_ht

This setup in general would increase the chances for more active cold showers with hail/thunder.  It’ll also be quite chilly with 30s/40s at night and only upper 50s and lower 60s for daytime highs.

Models are in pretty good agreement on the cold upper level low next week, take a look at the latest 12z ECMWF and 12z GFS ensemble charts.

tseries_850t_000-360_Portland

tseries_850t_000-384_Portland

Well below average the middle of next week, then a slow recovery to normal near the end of the runs.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


A Blustery Spring Day! It’s Payback Time

May 13, 2013

The peak gust of 36 mph at PDX today was the highest (non-easterly) wind gust in about 5 weeks here.  So of course a tree branch fell here or there.

PLOT_Wind_Metro_PeakGusts

Most of the heavier action was to the north in western Washington as mentioned in the previous post.  Take a look at all the lightning strikes in Puget Sound!

lightning5

Down here in our area the only cloud to ground strike was up in Cowlitz County.  In fact we didn’t even see much rain, here are the rainfall totals since midnight:

PLOT_Rain_Metro_Autoplot

Severe storms never developed in far NE Oregon and the watch has been cancelled.

So what’s ahead?  Time to make up for all the dry and mild weather.

We’ve seen a very dry late winter and spring with upper level high pressure often sitting just offshore, keeping the storms that do make it inland quite weak.    That changes for the next 7-14 days.  The persistent upper level height anomaly offshore is gone, replaced by weak westerly flow through at least next Sunday-Monday.  Then models are in pretty good agreement that our first chilly “Upper Level Low” we’ve seen in a month or two.   Take a look at the next 4 weeks of the ECMWF, it’s run out to one month twice a week.  Note the below average upper-level heights for the next 2-4 weeks!

500za_week1_bg_NA

500za_week2_bg_NA

500za_week3_bg_NA

500za_week4_bg_NA

Rose Festival and Memorial Day are just around the corner!  You can also see the cooler than average weather on the 12z GFS and ECMWF 850mb ensemble charts.  The green line is average for mid-late May, notice most of the time the temperatures are below average:

tseries_850t_000-360_Portland
tseries_850t_000-384_Portland

Models have attempted to throw up some brief ridging about next Monday, but I didn’t bite on that and only brought up the high temperature into the low 70s that day on our 7 Day Forecast.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


Northeast Oregon in SLIGHT RISK area today

May 13, 2013

The Storm Prediction Center has extreme NE Oregon in a “slight risk” area for severe thunderstorms this afternoon/evening.

http://www.spc.noaa.gov/products/outlook/day1otlk.html

day1otlk_1630
This is due to the cool upper-level disturbance moving across the Pacific Northwest producing great lift and shear in the atmosphere.  It’ll be tough to get anything other than a rumble or flash of lightning anywhere west of a Hermiston to Bend line.  But with better lift in Wallowa County and possibly Union/Baker counties some storms may get organized enough to produce strong/damaging wind.  It’s far more likely across northern Idaho and Montana this evening though.  Here is a snippet from their discussion:

...STEEP MID LEVEL LAPSE RATES AND LOW LEVEL DIABATIC HEATING FROM ERN OREGON ACROSS THE NRN ROCKIES AHEAD OF THE ADVANCING COLD FRONT WILL RESULT IN A DEEP SURFACE-BASED MIXED LAYER WITH CAPE REACHING 300-500 J/KG.  CONSENSUS MODEL GUIDANCE INCLUDING CONVECTION-ALLOWING MODELS INDICATE WIDELY SCATTERED HIGH-BASED STORMS WILL DEVELOP ALONG A CORRIDOR FROM NERN OREGON INTO WRN MT DURING THE 21-00Z PERIOD...WITH ACTIVITY SPREADING ENEWD INTO TONIGHT.  STRONG DEEP LAYER SHEAR WILL ENHANCE STORM ORGANIZATION WITH POTENTIAL FOR A FEW BOWING SEGMENTS OR SUPERCELLS TO OCCUR WITH STRONGER STORMSCAPABLE OF PRODUCING DAMAGING WIND GUSTS OR MARGINALLY SEVERE HAIL. 

What is a "severe thunderstorm?".  
Here's the official definition from the SPC folks:  The term severe thunderstorm refers to a thunderstorm producing hail that is at least quarter size, 1 inch in diameter or larger, and/or wind gusts to 58 mph or greater, and/or a tornado. Although lightning can be deadly, the NWS doesn't use it to define a severe thunderstorm. If it did, every thnderstorm would be severe, by definition. Also, excessive rainfall may lead to deadly flash flooding, but heavy rain is not a severe criterion either. The flood threat is handled through a separate set of watches and warnings from your local NWS forecast office.

West of the Cascades we’ll just see some vigorous showers (brief downpours, possible flash of lightning/rumble of thunder) through this evening since most of the action here is to our north up in Washington.  What a change though!  I was just thinking the other day how little of the cold showers & sunbreaks weather we’ve seen since March.

I’ll blog later about the coming payback time…I mean payback for all the warm and dry weather the past three weeks!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


First Time: 400ppm CO2 in Atmosphere

May 10, 2013

NOAA announced today that the planetary carbon dioxide measurement has reached “400” for the first time in recorded history.  Here’s the link.

http://researchmatters.noaa.gov/news/Pages/CarbonDioxideatMaunaLoareaches400ppm.aspx

Of course actual recording of CO2 in the atmosphere goes back less than 100 years, but proxy readings from Antarctic & Greenland ice sheets show we haven’t seen this concentration in hundreds of thousands of years (or longer).  Note the current level is higher than the “current level” shown on the chart from several years back.  NOAA is the source of the image.

evidence_CO2

So as Cliff Mass up at the UW says…we’re conducting a grand experiment to see what happens when we pump our atmosphere full of carbon dioxide.  Time will tell.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


First Marine Layer Forecast Miss Today

May 8, 2013

9:45pm Wednesday…

It will happen a bunch of times between now and September, we’ll forecast morning clouds and then they will stick around most of the day instead of disappearing.  Our high temperature will be 5-10 degrees cooler than we expected.  A classic (minor) forecast bust in the warm season.  We ended up at 70 instead of 75 at PDX today.  You can see the solid low clouds on the satellite picture below about 3,000′ west of the Cascades this morning:

MarkSat_Tease

Note that even though it was “cool” today, the high was still 3 degrees above average!  By 3pm the clouds were all gone.

If you are looking for more sunshine and warmer temps, tomorrow should be the day.  Temperatures are running several degrees warmer than last night at this time in Corvallis, McMinnville, & Kelso.  Those are the spots the marine air hit first as it poured into the Valley last night.  This weaker evening surge plus warming temperatures in the atmosphere above plus strong subsidence (sinking motions) from a strengthening upper level high directly overhead will squash the marine layer.  Thus what low clouds we get tomorrow should evaporate quickly.  Our 80 degrees forecast might be a couple notches too high, but I’m feeling lucky tonight.

Still looking for a very warm day Friday with mostly sunny skies, 850mb temps around +16 to +17 and no onshore flow.  That should get us up into the mid 80s.

Saturday is a bit of a question mark tempwise due to cloud cover.  I doubt we get low clouds, but probably hazy sunshine from high clouds.  Although morning temps should start in the upper 50s too.

Altogether, we’ll see at least one and possibly 3 more 80 degree days.  So far we’ve seen 3 this month:

MarkHeatwaveStudio_80DegreeTemps_May

What a change from 2010 and 2011 eh?

Some much-needed rain is still on the way for Saturday night through Monday.  We could see more than .50″ even in the driest parts of the metro area.  We’ve seen very little in the past 2+ weeks so it’s time.

Interesting disagreement in the longer range.  The ECMWF & GEM models are both flatter with more westerly flow over us through the middle of next week.  They show real seasonal weather with plenty of cloud cover but more dry than wet after Monday.   The 12z ECMWF 850mb temp ensemble forecast shows temps near average, or just slightly above most of next week:

tseries_850t_000-360_Portland

 

But the 12z/18z GFS had shown a quick rebound to well above average temps:

tseries_850t_000-384_Portland

However, the brand new 00z GFS looks more like the ECMWF/GEM (flatter zonal flow), so I’m going with a slower warmup and just average temps for the first part of next week.

I suppose the good news is that no models are showing a cold upper level low or long-term wet/cold pattern that we often see in late spring.  Just back to normal, which isn’t so bad in mid May!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen