Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Almost Below the Radar

I'm a weather geek, and have been ever since the third grade when my friend Robert Reed and I built a weather station and gave morning weather predictions to our class at Cathedral Oaks Elementary in Goleta, CA.

The instrumentation was paid for, out of pocket, by our teacher. We had a wind gauge, a thermometer, a barometer, and a sling hydrometer for measuring humidity. Our library had a couple of books about weather but because they assumed an east coast or Midwest location, they were not very useful for  southern California. Thunderheads -- never saw them, as well as many other named forms of clouds that rarely occurred. And of course, precipitation comprised of frozen water simply didn't happen. 

But even so, I recall that our little morning weather updates were more accurate than those printed in the newspaper. Probably just luck.

My love of weather and meteorology still persists even after long decades living in SoCal which doesn't provide one with much in the way of interesting weather. But when storms were approaching, I studied the weather maps shown on TV and in the newspaper, and in the early days of PC-DOS and MS-DOS ran the Accuweather software so I could see approaching fronts. 

Nowadays we can view weather maps and radar images on a number of weather sites. My favorite is wunderground.com. 

The PNW gets a lot more, and a lot more interesting weather than does coastal SoCal, which is a Good Thing in my mind. The skies here go on forever, unlike the thick atmospheric soup found at sea level in Socal. The temperature extremes are more so, the variety of precipitation is greater, and storms more frequent. 

But the available radar imagery is marginal. Portland's NEXRAD station, RTX, barely sees Bend, and Bend is beyond the horizon for MAX in Medford.

It's a pity. These two stations can show us what's coming to Bend -- as long as it's coming from the west, but they don't give a clear picture of what's going on around Bend. 

[Update: right now it's snowing lightly, though the sun is shining on our house. The clouds responsible for the snow don't even appear on RTX. My bet is that they are too close to the ground for that radar to see them.]
[Update to the update: I stopped at Pizza Mondo to grab a cheese slice for lunch. As I got out of my car, a pretty girl was walking in front of the Tower Theatre with her arms out, palms turned up. "The sun is shining and it's snowing!" she said, flashing me a happy smile. "Only in Bend."]

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