April 11, 2018

A Good Example of Why Need a Weather Radar Along the Oregon Coast--AND--The Northwest Weather Workshop

The value of having a radar on the Washington coast has been so clear since it was installed in 2011, that the lack of radar coverage over a large portion of the Oregon Coast and western Oregon is even more obvious.  And today provides a great example of the problem.

This morning at 11 AM, the infrared satellite imagery showed a front approaching the Northwest coast.   But where was it raining?

The UW WRF model forecast for precipitation for the 3-h precipitation total ending 11 AM predicted a continuous band of rain along the coast.  But was that right?

Well, to tell that you either need a LOT of rain gauges or good weather radar coverage.  The National Weather Service radar locations and coverage at 10,000 ft above ground level  is shown below.  This is optimistic and coverage can be much worse below 10,000 ft where there is blockage by terrain.  

In any case, Oregon is a radar coverage disaster, with poor coverage over the central and southern coastal zone and little coverage over much of eastern Oregon.

Here is the actual weather radar imagery at 11 AM from all available National Weather Service radars.  No precipitation over 2/3rds of the Oregon coast and offshore.   It was raining there, but it was invisible to the Portland and northern CA radars.  They desperately need a radar on the central Oregon coaast.

This problem doesn't seem to being considered seriously by the National Weather Service.   As we learned in Washington State, the National Weather Service will not address such problems without intense pressure from local citizens and their congressional representatives.  Here in Washington State, Senator Cantwell, with the help of Senator Murray, did a lot of the heavy lifting in DC.

The Northwest Weather Workshop

     People ask me all the time about whether there are any local meetings for those who enjoy learning mre about Northwest weather.  The answer is a big yes!  The Northwest Weather Workshop held in Seattle each spring.   

This year, the meeting will take place at the NOAA Sand Point facility in Seattle on April 27-28th. 

Two sessions will deal with the meteorology of Northwest wildfires and on Friday we will also have session on the results of the OLYMPEX field program (studied precipitation processes over that mountain barrier).  Other sessions will deal with the latest on NW weather modeling, communication of the risk for extreme events, reviews of major weather events of the past year, studies on NW climate, and much more.  The banquet on Friday night will include an excellent speaker, Professor Dan Jaffe of UW Bothell, who will describe some of the air quality impacts of wildfires.

To see the agenda, go to the official website and registration portal :

This meeting is open to everyone, and I suspect that even complete layfolk will get a lot out of 90% of the talks.  But keep in mind that  YOU MUST REGISTER IN ADVANCE TO ATTEND THE EVENT, which you can do at the above link.  There is a modest registration fee that includes snacks and lunch on Saturday.  If someone can't afford the registration fee, we can work something out.

Anyway, it should be a great meeting and everyone is invited, but NOAA security prevents anyone who has not registered from gaining entry.


  1. Looks like what we need is to repurpose a few oil platforms into offshore radar stations. Set these in a line down the coast and get a real good view of the approaching weather systems.

  2. No question about the need on the OR coast, I don't believe that there were any tornado warnings when the twister hit smack dab into the middle of Manzanita two years back. Thank goodness there was no loss of life - coming from the Midwest, advance warnings mean everything.


  3. What ever happened to the report that was supposed to be produced on radar coverage? HR 353 was signed in 4/18/2017. It stated, among many other things, "The Department of Commerce must complete a study, within 180 days of the enactment of this bill, on gaps in the coverage of the NWS's Next Generation Weather Radar. "

    I have yet to see this study.

  4. Eric - it isn't about tornadoes here in the Northwest. They do occur, but they are rare, and weak. The climatology here in the Northwest is not conducive to producing tornadoes. It is however conducive to producing cyclones, which is where the radar might help.

  5. I understand your point, John K - but regardless of which weather phenomenon is being forecasted, the OR coast needs the coverage.

  6. Best wishes for a successful weather workshop April 27-28. There are many interesting subjects on the agenda. One of the many I would like to hear is by my son Michael, a meteorologist at the Northern Rockies Geographical Area Coordination Center. Here in "The Sunshine State" the weather, for the most part is fairly stable and predictable, except in hurricane season that starts June 1. Meanwhile, the surf temperature is 80 so we are not complaining.

    J. Michael Richmond
    Jupiter, FL

  7. The October 2016 Manzanita tornado marked the first time on record that the Portland NWS office issued a tornado warning BEFORE it it. I remember the sound byte with a person saying "I had just looked at my phone showing TORNADO WARNING, looked up and there it was!". It was just barely within range of RTX and LGX radars. Down at Newport or Lincoln City it probably would not have been seen...Mark Nelsen/KPTV


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