Watches vs. Warnings & The Great Cascadia Quake Anniversary

7:00pm Tuesday

Last night, while most of us were asleep on a quiet winter night, a powerful earthquake rumbled underneath the Gulf of Alaska.  It set off Tsunami warnings around the Gulf, and a Tsunami WATCH for the coastline of Oregon & Washington.  That watch was in effect from around 1:30 to 4:30am…again, while most of us were asleep.

There was a bit of confusion about this so let’s make sure we’re all on the same page with WATCHES vs. WARNINGS.  I think this graphic sums it up well.

Weather Watch vs Warnings

This applies to ALL weather events (snow, wind, ice, flooding, heat) AND Tsunamis as well.

So how about the case of the Tsunami watch this morning?  If it happens again, what should you do?  Go ahead and go back to bed, but make sure your phone, or NOAA weather radio is close by in case the watch is upgraded to a warning.

As for advisories, special weather statements, or public information statements, those are for less significant weather events.

By the way, Friday will be the 318 year anniversary the last great Cascadia “Mega-Thrust” earthquake.  It happened on the evening of January 26th, 1700.  Estimated to be at least a 9.0 somewhere off the coastline along the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

Earthquake Great Subduction Zone 1700 Event

It’s interesting that geologists didn’t know much about it until around 20 years ago.  They put together the pieces of the “puzzle” (#1-3 above).  Most interesting to me is the drowned trees in some bays.  The tree rings pegged the last growing season as 1699.  Good stuff.  You can read more about it here:

and the Wikipedia article which seems pretty reasonable:


Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

99 Responses to Watches vs. Warnings & The Great Cascadia Quake Anniversary

  1. WEATHERDAN says:

    Turn out the lights the party’s over. The RRR rules again. Thursday is February. And in February our chances for lowland snow go down dramatically. Could it still happen? Yes but the odds are less and less likely. It will be interesting to see them explain this Winter at OMSI next October. Next up is what will this Summer be like. Peace.

  2. Ashley Watson says:

    Going to Costco to get forks in bulk. That’s it folks for the winter

  3. JJ78259 says:

    Sunny and 74 out on the patio my girls are soaking up winter sun. I actually worked up a little sweat working in the yard. That sun feels great after a colder than normal winter so far! You gotta love it!

  4. Roland Derksen says:

    Ironic to read some of the comments about how dry the weather has been down in your area(Portland). I wish I could exchange a week of your dryish weather with our wet one. I’ve measured a total of 9.29 inches up to last night here. Based on the forecast for the remainder of the month, it’s possible this January will end up with over 11 inches. That’s not a record for me (I’ve seen 2 past Januarys over 14 inches) but it’s more than enough.

  5. marinersfan85 says:

    I believe we’re still on for around the 7th. Models will flop back in a day or two.

  6. JERAT416 says:

    I bought a bulk box of forks to hand out here at the bottom of the cliff.

  7. Ken in Wood Village says:

    2017-2018 winter is so pathetic. I’m so tired of this sad excuse of a winter.

    • Joshua Downtown PDX says:

      Pretty bad. Especially considering it’s a La Niña winter. What was looking like potentially below freezing highs early next week, is now looking like spring (60s). I knew in the back of my head that the ridge wouldn’t move far enough west to allow the cold air in our area. It just can’t seem to happen this winter. There is still a little time for some fun, but not much.

      • Ken in Wood Village says:

        What’s sad is when we went to the weather conference they said we were in weak La Niña winter so we should have had some decent rain and some low land snow but this has been a very dry and I mean dry winter. I guess know we can only hope we have a wet spring to bring the bases up at the ski resorts. I know we are a little over the average rain amount in the Portland area but there are areas elsewhere that really need the moisture. Maybe we could get into a active pattern were we get a lot of Thunderstorms…lol. If only we could get the strong one like in the Mid-West…lmao 😀

    • JohnD says:

      Yep. Quite sad indeed. Well at least we have next winter to look forward to.

  8. Paul D says:

    50 degrees at 6am in Hillsboro – guess we’re not having an overnight low today 😦

  9. Alohabb says:

    I’m voting for spring now. Faux winter can go away. Grass needs mowing , buds are showing. Allergies will be on the way.

  10. W7ENK says:

    Interesting bit about tonight’s “Pacific cyclone” from Professor Mass.

    Too bad it means absolutely nothing for the PDX area.

    • Jake in Gresham says:

      No wonder it’s pouring cattle and horses out there! I drove through the countryside. Ollie mollies couldn’t see anything without the defrost and A/C on full blast. Actually woke up a little on the drive home, loL!

      Curious what the 00Z GFS shows. My gut is we miss the 2 week window on the first half of February. The second half is pushing toward Spring and so if the GFS and Euro don’t pull anything together in that time-frame.

      Spring time as far as I’m concerned.

  11. JJ78259 says:

    Looks like spring ahead 75 degrees showing up this week with a lot of sunshine in San Antonio! Can’t wait!

  12. Ken in Wood Village says:

    Things are becoming more and more interesting. The 12Z GFS is in line (or close to it) with the EURO when colder weather comes into the PNW. Hmmmm…..:)

  13. Alohabb says:

    This song says it all

  14. JohnD says:

    I simply cannot understand how Mark permits the continued antagonistic “input” from an arrogant clown in the form of Nahtalkin. I am pretty close to being done with including the blog in my weather related trawls. Is it a ratings thing Mark? Done.

  15. Nahtalkin says:

    Soon it will be all over for the “wish-caster’s” dismal season to wind down, less than 27 days for a potential ‘arctic outbreak’ for the metro area. I just don’t see that happening, after 66 trips around the sun I’m already starting to un-shudder the farm in preparation for spring chores and maintenance.

    “Another blink of an eye
    Sixty seven is gone
    The sun is getting high
    We’re moving on.”

    ~ Five for Fighting ~

  16. WEATHERDAN says:

    The RRR returneth it would so appear. The only question it would seem then is will it be cold or a warm ridge. My surmise is a 70% chance of it being a warm ridge. But we shall see. Peace.

  17. marinersfan85 says:

    EURO says 9 days away now!

  18. JohnD says:

    Eventually the seemingly perpetual “10 day dam” WILL indeed break. That much IS guaranteed–even if it is 20 days from the present. The only questions are–which we all love to speculate about–with huge hobby passion:
    *Where and how will the currently pent up pattern to the north evolve? E.g. E. of the Rockies–as is usually the case; or will the PNW get a piece of the action which is rarely the case (especially this year); –and–
    *When there is finally a shift, will there be enough time in the winter weather window for it to matter much? E.g. Sun angles are increasing each day.
    Bottom line:
    It COULD still happen,
    And for the moment, there IS STILL time.
    Just wait 10 more days–right!?😄

    • W7ENK says:

      Don’t be such a meanie-head! >_<

    • Nahtalkin says:

      Why do you say pent up? I understand that climate and weather are free flowing and always in flux just like growth rings on a tree just sometimes slower and sometimes a little faster, come to think of it just like my lawn grass…..It’s all part of the “Beauty Way”…..Enjoy!

  19. W7ENK says:

    You guys keep riding a standing wave that’s holding steady at 10 days out. As someone who used to get caught up in the same fervor by doing exactly that, it’s funny to watch you guys do it from the sidelines. I’m sure a lot of the folks here who’ve been around a while can relate.

    I’ll let you in on a little secret: Unless that wave breaks and starts rushing toward shore (Hour 0), it’s just going to keep holding out there at Day 10 until the season ends, where it’ll turn into a summertime heatwave…

    Come quick, your food’s getting cold!

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      I just love the negativity here. And you wonder why people get mad at other people. This would be a better place if people would keep there negative ideas to themselves. 😛

    • W7ENK says:

      Okay, I guess it’s time for my annual “realism does not equal pessimism” lecture again…

      When you’ve been doing this for as long as some of us have, and you’ve experienced a disappointment-to-success ratio with worse odds than the Oregon Lottery, you eventually learn certain truths.

      ● If it’s at Day 10, it’s at Day 10. It’s just eye candy, and most definitely not in the bag.

      ● If it’s still at Day 10 tomorrow, when logically it should now be at Day 9, well… ?

      ● If a week from now it’s still out there at Day 10?

      That’s not negativity, it’s truth.

      It may take a few more years of riding that wave, but eventually you’ll learn. We’ve all been through it. I’m not trying to spoil your fun, I’m just offering an experienced voice of reason. The most important thing is, just try to relax and enjoy.

      • Ken in Wood Village says:

        No. I have been watching this blog for 10+ years and I already know what I should be doing with the models. What I was trying to tell you was the fact you where being a bully. I don’t tolerate people being bullies to anyone. I would tone down your comments to people and what they should or shouldn’t be doing. This blog is for people to express what they think about the models. Keep your rude comments to yourself.

        • Registered Nerd says:

          Not sure what he said qualifies as “bullying”, I think a little thicker skin is in order here. That said I understand how you feel if you express your opinion and someone promptly throws a bucket of cold water on it…maybe if he threw a big snowball instead you’d enjoy it more ❄️ ⛄️

        • W7ENK says:

          Good Lord, what did I say that was so wrong?

        • Anonymous says:

          “Shooting the messenger” is a metaphoric phrase used to describe the act of blaming the bearer of bad news. Until the advent of modern telecommunication, messages were usually delivered by human envoys. For example, in war, a messenger would be sent from one camp to another.

        • Nahtalkin says:

          “Shooting the messenger” is a metaphoric phrase used to describe the act of blaming the bearer of bad news. Until the advent of modern telecommunication, messages were usually delivered by human envoys. For example, in war, a messenger would be sent from one camp to another.

        • …comments about being realistic about ten days out are bullying???…good lord…if this is what the definition of being a bully has come to, i suggest that everyone go inside, draw the blinds, turn off the tv, and sit in silence alone without any external contact with any other living thing that displays logic and thought…you won’t be bullied that way…

        • GTS1Kft says:

          I’d guess, from his typically incoherent comment, Ted is not aware of the centuries-old concept of mail/post as a means of delivering messages. But, hey, a list of the things Ted is not aware of would be far too long for the Blog.

          and Larry, you forgot the thumb-sucking defense against “bullies”….

    • Yup. I no longer waste any of my emotional energy on model runs that forecast arctic blasts and/or lowland snow until they get within a week (and better yet, within 5 days) and the models start settling on cold/snowy solutions instead of meaninglessly flip-flopping around.

      Random model runs that show something interesting happening 10+ days out are most likely just noise.

  20. Ken in Wood Village says:

    I will admit, the GFS has been very consistent the last few runs with bring cold air into our area. Let’s see what it does the next few runs 🙂

  21. Ken in Wood Village says:

    The GFS keeps get more and more interesting. It seems to be trending in the right direction 🙂

    • Mountain Man says:

      00z is an outliner. Ensembles are trending warmer. Now the ECMWF has been flipping back and forth every other run at Ridge placements day 8-10 and if it would just go with the back door cold for a few runs in a row, I’d put stake in it more than anything the GFS pukes out. Just saying…

      • Ken in Wood Village says:

        I agree, I’m hoping the ECMWF will start trending colder. It’s still a long ways off so hopefully between now and then it will go back. Thank you for your input 🙂

  22. JohnD says:

    For a little weather trivia diversion, I was exploring big city global climates. Interestingly, most of the colossal global cities have snow free climates. New York is an exception. Even Tokyo is basically marine like Portland–and even milder. Earlier this week it snowed several inches there–with 25′ temps. Not unheard of, but rare–even more so than Portland snowstorms. I used to have a theory that when it snowed in Tokyo, a Portland snow event would follow in a week or two! That theory is, obviousl, completely frivolous; but it has shown to verify a time or two. SO much happening now up north and to the far northeast. Time will tell what does–or does not–evolve in our late winter!

  23. Roland Derksen says:

    8 inches of precipitation here for the month now here. That’s not unusually high (it’s fairly close to average) but it’s the nearly continual overcast conditions along with it that get me down. I want a sunny February.

  24. Ken in Wood Village says:

    Well, the 12Z GFS just got interesting 🙂

  25. Jake in Gresham says:

    Finally got home for work and can look.

    Eh, the GFS is playing cards. First two runs were bringing awesome arctic air to our doorstep (i.e. Columbia river basin) and the last 2 runs don’t even bring the arctic air anywhere near the Columbia basin. What snot. It looks like the coldest air of the Winter season too. Watch, Northeaster come out of all of this.

    Mr. Nelson, we need you to go on vacation.

    My only confidence is this here:

    But this gives little confidence:

    The weather models don’t know. Alright, who
    overclocked the PCs and forgot to turn up the AC.

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      I agree with you Jake. Did you see my post about The Weather Channel? I’m hoping they are right about the errors and the if the Ensemble Mean looks better if they are right. We will see when we get closer to next week. 🙂

      • Jake in Gresham says:

        I saw, and honestly I put the weather channel in the Government category. Very precise. With no accuracy. Don’t get me wrong, excellent funny videos and coverage on big storms (and where this cold front will be in your State today type deal). But I never have relied on them for local coverage. I’ve lived in front of the gorge all my childhood and young adulthood.

        I’ll use a wet finger in the wind first. Always. Shoot, I know what the weather is outside 90% of the time without even getting to a window or hearing. I just feel it. But I like to back country hike. You need that there. Otherwise, you push up daisies, or mushrooms (depending on the season). Lol!

        • Ken in Wood Village says:

          LOL, I understand your feelings about their local forecast but what they were talking about was the overall models and what could happen with the overall pattern in the 2nd week of February. The last time they were talking about the overall pattern (when we were getting the high and warm weather and the East coast would get really cold) it came true. I’m hoping they are right about this one. .

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      I forgot to ask, the charts you are using in this post, what website is this from?? Thanx 🙂

      • Jake in Gresham says:

        Ah, a half full type of person. I have made sure my half empty (I want to emphasis on my stance here). Is not soda.

        Building diving board for cliff now.

        • Jake in Gresham says:

          Click the PNA buttons*

        • Ken in Wood Village says:

          I really do respect your views on what’s going on. I guess I’m just holding out until next week. Since the GFS is all over the place right now I’m going to hold out until we get closer to next week. If things do change to warmer and drier weather then I will dive off the board with you…lol.

          Thank you for the link 🙂

        • Jake in Gresham says:

          Trust meh, there are people with far more experience that you should respect. I’m here for the snowstorms -_-

      • JohnD says:

        You rock Ken! And so does Jake!

    • Nahtalkin says:

      Go blow your nose’s kid’s! Quit crying and suck it up, spring is just around the corner and happy days are here again!

      • Ken in Wood Village says:

        Are you always a negative person. I guess your any old beat up old man. I don’t think I have ever met someone who needs to bash people so much. I guess your just a big old bully that has no one to hug you to make you feel better. 😜

      • GTS1Kft says:

        Apostrophe abuse by the Einstein of Barton – whose only joy comes from trying to P/O others. He’s (see – a contraction) pathetically pusillanimous and he’s (another one) even inept at that.

        Sad little excuse for a life.

  26. Ken in Wood Village says:

    I was watching The Weather Channel when they started talking about the 2nd week of February. They said something about the possibility of a ridge of high pressure building up along the West coast again and bring cold air into the East coast but they said the Ensemble guidance or Ensemble Mean which would bring colder air into our area. On the map they showed, the Jetstream would go down into California and the PNW would be cold.

    Let’s hope this will be the case and maybe we could get a chance of colder and snowier weather into February 🙂

    • JohnD says:

      The recurrent ridge has been so persistent and so unfavorably positioned that it has—as we all know—basically nullified our winter so far. If only the next episode will retrograde slightly to put us under the gun. Absolutely no doubt that there is plenty of cold air to draw from to the north! Time will tell! Thanks for your input!

      • Ken in Wood Village says:

        Your welcome. Like you said, time will tell. I do see the GFS has gone with giving us warmer temps again but the EURO still is cooler than the GFS. I guess next week we will know how things go. It all has to deal with that damn High Pressure and where it will set up. I’m hoping it will be further out so it can let cold air down to us 🙂

        • JohnD says:

          Yes I agree. By about this time next week we should have a better idea of how trends will be setting up with greater reliability–prelude to ushering in either a season defining bonafide winter snap–or quite the opposite!

  27. ocpaul says:

    (weeks, months or years)

    • Nahtalkin says:

      Great news for Jason and Co., they always like ‘boring’ weather. Makes it a ‘hole’ lot better punching in another well!

  28. Been studying Cascadia Subduction Zone with great interest for quite some time. I don’t particularly want to be around when it rips, but on the other hand, it would be historic, given it only happens about once every 300-or-so years.

    • Jake in Gresham says:

      Not my field or my full interest but I’ve looked at it. And I agree, it’s one for the history books when it happens. My main concern is Seattle will get most of the immediate aid. I think people under-estimate how vulnerable the PDX area is. The business district along the Columbia river for example is all landfill over swamps. Not the, best for stable foundations during an earthquake. That much I know.

  29. Registered Nerd says:

    I’ve got a weather question based on this mornings 06z that is probably easy for 1 of you to answer. In the long range the model had flipped back to cool-cold with 925mb temps around -3 on Feb 8th. The wind directions are all out of the west-southwest…how do we get cold sea level temps here with the wind coming from the southwest? I always thought we needed a good east or north wind from a continental airmass to get us in the -3 or colder range…thanks

    • Jake in Gresham says:

      The gorge battles this pattern with the East wind outlet it provides to arctic air pooling behind the Cascades.

      Most weather computer models cannot accurately predict this factor. The one’s that do? We don’t have access to them unless you’re well; a news channel with a meteorologist that has the financial means.

      • Ken in Wood Village says:

        Hehe, I wish I had a deep pocket…lol. I’m liking the trend with the GFS. It keeps on trying to put cold air for us. I also saw on the latest run that it gives us snow for almost two days. Very interesting indeed 🙂

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      I’m wondering if you looked at the other heights? I believe one reason why is because the air above is even colder. At 500mb it’s -25C and at 700mb it’s between -18 and -14C. At the 2m height it gives us around 34F. I also see the cold air coming down from the North. This is a long ways off but I’m hoping the GFS keeps trending colder like it’s doing now.

    • Registered Nerd says:

      Thanks much! Hoping for one shot of winter as are most of us..,

  30. Jake in Gresham says:

    Mr. Nelson,

    A really important subject to bring up. And perhaps this watch happened at the appropriate time honestly. I’m a student down at Oregon State University which studies the earthquake risk in detail for the PNW.

    Your news channel actually covered our current activities quite well here where a campus is being created for important research (we know more about the surface of the moon than we know of the depths of the ocean) and as an evacuation zone (where there isn’t really one should a tsunami happen):

    The school has an amazing tool under development here (click the question mark next to the search engine if anyone needs directions):

    This has overall well been covered by my University:

    Our Dean has complained about this quite often as seen here:

    A lot of people in our area don’t realize the dangers. Here is an assessment where a discussion actually occurred on the subject:

  31. Wendy - Silverlake, WA says:

    Tonight’s wind is definitely kicking Saturday night/Sunday morning wind’s butt. It’s pretty crazy out there!! To bad it’s dark and can’t see it. 😦

  32. Ellen Wallace says:

    We are not ready for when Cascadia breaks loose…Glad not too much damage (that I have heard about anyway) done in AK.

  33. Ken in Wood Village says:

    Again, the GFS is starting to come around again. Let’s keep it up GFS…hehe

  34. boydo3 says:

    “The future’s uncertain and the end is always near”
    Jim Morrison

  35. W7ENK says:

    Okay, so initially there was a TSUNAMI WARNING issued for all of the affected Pacific Coastline. About 40 minutes later, that WARNING was canceled for all areas except the immediate Alaskan coast, replaced by a WATCH for most other areas in the Pacific Basin. Shortly thereafter, all products were then canceled once buoy data showed there was no tsunami generated.

    You’re welcome.

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