Cool Start to April, plus ECMWF Weekly Maps

April 16, 2015

I’ve been a bit lazy posting the last week or so…partly busy, but also less inspired during the warmer half of the year.

Our upper-level ridge that has dominated the weather quite a bit over the past year or so has been taking a break.  Check out the first two weeks of April compared to February.  APRIL VS FEB In Astoria, Salem, & Eugene it has been COLDER than the same period in February!  That’s quite a change in the general weather pattern for us.   For the first time since November we’ve had a two week spell of chilly weather.

In spite of the current and forecast warm weather we are in, the ECMWF model doesn’t show strong ridging coming back.  That said, the flow may be splitting quite a bit over the next few weeks.  We can see that on the 1-2 week maps and also last night’s run of the ECMWF out to one month.

Here are Weeks 1 & 2:



Cool troughs want to split off and head to our south far more often than we would typically see in late April.   You can see that in the below normal heights over the southern half of the West Coast.

Then Week 3:


About average heights over us.

Week 4 shows nothing of interest…about average:


Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

How Many Of These PDX Weather Personalities Do YOU Remember?

April 13, 2015

I’ve taken on a little project over the past week.  I’m cataloging names & dates of all the different Portland television weather personalities over the years.  My aim was to go back to 1980 or so, but it turns out I learned so much more about folks from the 1970s.  It’s a huge spreadsheet and I want to thank other weather guys/gals around town who responded to my emails.

Below are 4 pictures (make sure you click on each for a large view), one for each main TV station in Portland.









  • The longest-serving weather person of all time is (no surprise) Jack Capell.  He worked at KGW from 1956 through 2000…44 years!
  • Jim Little is the only anchor that has worked on all 4 station’s newscasts as a regular…I think.  He went from KGW > KATU > KOIN and was the 10pm KPDX weather anchor for the period where KOIN produced the FOX49 newscast.
  • I’ve only included regulars that “had/have” a specific show/shows.  There are dozens more who might have done fill-in or free-lance work and I can’t account for that.

Please let me know if you happen to know any dates I wasn’t able to figure out.  A QUESTION MARK MEANS I DON’T KNOW WHEN THE PERSON STARTED OR LEFT A STATION

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Weatherman “Dr. John” Walls Has Died

April 6, 2015


There was a time in Portland TV when there were only just a handful of weather people and it wasn’t all that long ago.  Because there were so few, you got to know those guys very well!  When I was growing up (mid 70s to late 80s) and watching the weathercasts in the evenings, it was usually Jim Bosley at KATU, Jim Little at KGW, and Dr. John Walls at KOIN.  That was it.  David Apple did weather at KPTV from time to time, but I hardly watched because back then there wasn’t much I watched on KPTV other than Star Trek reruns.  If you remember KPTV had no network affiliation until sometime in the 1990s so the programming wasn’t very exciting for a 8-15 year old.

I just found out today Dr. John has died.

His obituary is here:

I did get to meet him just once, in the mid 90s; a few years after I started at KOIN (I was there 1993-2000).  He stopped by to visit some ex-coworkers.  He sounded EXACTLY like I remembered him when growing up…very cool to meet someone you watched EVERY night on TV.  Back then there was no Internet, no cell phones, no texting, no cable (for me), no Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc…  You just plunked down on the couch and watched TV in the evening or you actually talked to other people/kids in person.  Well, maybe a game of Space Invaders on the Atari 2600, but that was it for entertainment.

My best memory of him is the weather maps!  Remember how he’d calmly glide from one to another to another yet his speech never wavered?  He may have even had a thick black pen to highlight stuff, but I don’t remember that.

If you are older than 35-40, you probably remember him…what are YOUR thoughts?

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Final Cascade Snowpack Update: New Records Set

April 2, 2015

7pm Thursday…


A new record low snow depth was reached at Mt. Hood Meadows yesterday.  Even with almost a foot of fresh powder, just 33″ of snow was on the ground.  That’s lower than the previous low record for April 1st…49″ during the other really bad season, 2004-2005.  That year we had a bunch of snow the 2nd half of March as the pattern finally recovered.

Timberline tied a record with just 57″ on the ground.  That was the 1980-1981 season.  Records at both locations (at least online) go back to the early 1970s.

As you see in the graphic, 4 ski areas in the Washington Cascades set record lows as well.  I noticed Paradise up on Mt. Rainier was less than 10″ from its record low; impressive since records there go back to 1926!

Hopefully this was a “once in a generation” snow season.  In every other year since at least 1970 there was a recovery sometime between January and March, this year that didn’t happen.

Here are the April 1st numbers from around the state…pretty bad as expected:



What’s ahead?  More snow!  Looks great for skiing on Saturday and again early next week:


Beyond that time we have some warmer weather (and some melting) the middle and latter part of next week.

The models/maps beyond the middle of next week are in quite a bit of disarray.  Take a look at the 12z ECMWF ensembles showing another cold trough for NEXT weekend, the 12th:


Then by day 15 the ECMWF and GEM (ensembles) both have a return of ridging and warm temps:

ecm_15days gem_15days

meanwhile the 18z GFS has the cold trough just to our south much stronger for more cool & showery weather:


See the difference here?  As a result I don’t have much confidence in a general outlook except it’ll be a bit warmer/dry later next week and then likely another round of cold showers around the 11th-12th.

Here is last night’s ECMWF monthly run…the weekly average 500mb height from its ensembles.

Week 1 & 2, you can see the ridging around 12-15 days out on the 2nd map:



Week 3, looks cooler again


Week 4, not a whole lot to see here.


Interesting that there is no sign of the east Pacific ridge returning, except during the 2nd week or so.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Record Warm March

March 30, 2015

Can you believe 5 of the past 12 months we’ve seen all-time record warm conditions in Portland?  Yep, August, September, October, February, & now March are the warmest in Portland Airport history:


There are two reasons.  For one, there has been a tendency for upper-level ridging to hang around the West Coast or eastern Pacific for much of the past two years.  The other is the unusually warm eastern Pacific ocean waters, also called “The Blob” over the past 18 months or so.  You can see it on the sea surface temperature anomaly map:


One of the results of all the warm weather is the growing season running well ahead of schedule.  My apple trees are beginning to bloom; these typically bloom a month from now.  Chris Markes was out in the Hood River Valley today and says it is already at the peak…a good three weeks ahead of the main blossom festival time.  So get out there within the next week!


There have been several periods over the past year where the ridge has broken down and we return to a wet & cool weather pattern for a week or two, or three.  This is happening again for at least the first couple weeks of April.  Between now and April 15th there will likely be more snow above 5,000′ than we have seen since December!  Lots of showers in the valleys too.  Let’s just hope for no frost to ruin the blooming trees.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


Monday: Last Warm & Dry Day

March 29, 2015

10pm Sunday…

You’ve got less than 24 hours to finish up any projects that need more than a few hours of dry weather. I see a long stretch of cool & wet weather beginning tomorrow night.


It really does look like payback time for the unusually warm end to winter (February) and start to spring (March).  The latest numbers for this warm period are amazing…


A quick look further back in time shows only in early spring 1992 did we have as many 60 degree days as we’ve seen this year!

Our persistent ridge of high pressure that’s been sitting overhead or to the west of us for the last few months is going to take a break.  It appears the ridge is going to disappear for at least the first half of April.  That doesn’t mean the rest of spring will be cold and wet, we don’t know that.  It just means we’ll make up some snowpack in the Cascades.  Too late to salvage the ski season of course now that Spring Break has finished and we move on to warm weather activities, but it will help the drought situation in some spots.

How much rain ahead?  The GFS model shows around 2.00″ over the next 10 days.


ECMWF model isn’t quite as wet, more like 1.00-1.50″.  Both are wetter than normal for this time of year.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Spring Break: Vacation Time

March 18, 2015

Wednesday, March 18th…


I will be posting very little (or not at all) during the next 10 days.  It’s Spring Break time in Oregon and I’m taking a vacation with the family through Saturday the 28th.

I’ll be back at work on Sunday the 29th.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


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