No Sign of Lowland Snow Next 10 Days

December 10, 2019

9:30pm Tuesday…

These first 10 days of December have been mild; quite a turnaround from that cold Thanksgiving week.


Of course we’ve been on the dry side since early October too.  Both Oregon/Washington saw a dry fall.  Take a look at the precipitation percent of normal for the past 60 days


I do see three wet days ahead.  A Pacific system moves inland tomorrow afternoon followed by lots of post-frontal showers in the colder airmass Thursday and Friday.  There are hints we could see vigorous showers Thursday with maybe hail or thunder.  Then I see another somewhat “splitty” jet stream setup this weekend and part of next week.  That’s a return to weak systems.  You can see the upper-level system heading into California on Tuesday


All models advertise strong southwesterly flow of some sort later NEXT week (about 10 days out).  The GFS 500 millibar heights and anomaly for Friday the 20th…


What I don’t see, at least during the next 10 days, is any setup for lowland snow or a freeze.  I’m sure not going to bother putting on my snow tires for now.  Maybe next week.

Snow levels will vary between 2,000-6,000′ in the next 10 days.  Probably lowest this weekend.  Notice not a single one of 51 ECMWF ensemble members produces snow in Portland through Christmas Eve either!  Leading up to the Thanksgiving cold spell there were multiple ensemble members hinting that we might see some snow fun.  But you see nothing here.


I’ve also been noticing the consistency in those ensembles for 850mb temps (temp in Celsius around 4,000′) through the next two weeks.  Not a single member down below -6; that’s when I start getting interested in lowland snow setups.


The last time we saw snow in December was Christmas Eve 2017.  You may remember a couple hours of light snow, followed by a bunch of freezing rain.  It was a “Silver Christmas Morning” in 2017.

December Snow PDX 2017

To summarize

  1. There’s no sign of lowland snow or a hard freeze in the next 10 days, possibly longer
  2. That means we’ll make it at least 2/3rds of the way through December without snow
  3. We can’t see much beyond that point, although there are no hints of anything a little farther out.  It’s too early to know if we’ll be close to snow or ice for Christmas Week

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Ski Season Update: A Slow Start, But No Need to Panic…Yet

December 6, 2019

6pm Friday…

Way back in late September, then more so in late October, there were hopes we might see an early ski season.  There was more snow on the ground in late October than right now!

That was due to a couple of very early season cold spells + snow.   This was my graphic on October 19th.


That all melted away, but then a huge Thanksgiving week storm dumped 1 to 2.5 snow up on the mountain.  Once again we’ve gone back to mild & mainly dry.  So we’re down to 1 to 1.5′ at Timberline and Meadows, and just a few inches down at Skibowl.  Timberline is hoping to have two lifts open tomorrow again, and Mt. Hood Meadows has some basic terrain open with a few lifts turning this weekend.

So when will real skiing begin?  That typically happens when a ski area has a solid 30″ base (or more).


  1. We are not in any sort of “crisis” right now. There have been LOTS of early seasons that don’t deliver; then suddenly in mid-late December the snow gods deliver the goods.
  2. There’s no need to freak-out/panic until we get to Christmas Vacation time…that’s the 20th this year.  Still a full two weeks away.
  3. Above 5,500′ there should be 4-8″ this weekend, but very little below that elevation.
  4. There are hints we may get some sort of a dumping late next week, maybe enough to get more runs open for NEXT weekend.  Maybe.

The reason for the lack of snow is obvious when looking at the upper-level height anomaly chart for the past 30 days.  A persistent area of high pressure over and just northwest of the Pacific Northwest.  This weakens approaching storms, splitting them as well.  Notice lower than normal “heights” in California; that explains wet and cool weather down there recently.


Now this weekend a weak system is moving onshore California and we’re getting southerly flow as it moves by.  This setup isn’t typically a big snow-producer in the Cascades and it tends to be quite mild as well.  In this case I think we could see up to 10″ WAY up high.  Like well above 6,000′.  But it’ll be tough to get any sticking snow below 5,500′.  Forget about snow at Government Camp

RPM Snow Accumulation Mt Hood Zoom In

Upper-level ridging wants to develop over the PACNW again Monday through Wednesday.  Notice the above-average heights on Wednesday…ridging


But the ridge flattens a bit Thursday/Friday, allowing a more typical wet/snowy system into the Pacific Northwest.  In fact the ECMWF shows a cool upper-level trough or two slipping through the region that following weekend (14th/15th).  This would be much better for Cascade snow.

Both the ECMWF and GFS ensemble forecasts say we’re done with ridging after that time.  Going out a full two weeks, they both forecast upper-level troughing right over us.  Back to chilly weather like we saw Thanksgiving

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Yet the GEM (Canadian) builds the big ridge right over us again at the same time…hmmm.


We’ll see how this plays out, but for now it appears we’ll get at least a bit more Cascade snow late NEXT week.   Our forecast for Government Camp temps plus ski area snow & snow levels around Mt. Hood

7 Day Forecast GOVT CAMP

By the way, there’s absolutely no sign of lowland snow/cold in the next 7-10 days.  The ECMWF ensembles for snowfall (51 separate runs from this morning’s data) say forget about it:


Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

December Starts Mild; Still No Stormy Weather Pattern In Sight

December 1, 2019

10pm Sunday…

That storm of flurries in the metro area was fun last night around midnight to 1am.  Lots of us saw a dusting, although no one saw more than 1/2″.  I see some totals up around 2-3″ max in the Gorge.  Not exactly a big snow storm…or even any sort of snow storm.  But a nice little start to the cold season weather fun.  Officially no measurable snow fell in Portland so we haven’t seen our “first snow” yet this season

Snow Official PDX Today

East wind is still screaming through the western Gorge this evening, gusting 70-80 mph at times at Crown Point.  But tomorrow the high pressure east of the Cascades weakens quite a bit; so the wind dies down too.  That means a bit warmer in the metro area and Gorge too.  Otherwise we should see a fantastic first Monday of December; abundant sunshine and high temperatures near normal.  That’s 45-50 this time of year.

November was very dry, in fact the driest in 26 years in Portland!

Driest November Ever Graph

Remember October was dry as well.  Just for fun I checked all the October/Novembers with less than 5″ rain in Portland (only 3.03″)  All 5 since 1976 ended up with little/no winter snow in Portland.  The winters following were all generally quite boring in our area. That’s 76-77, 87-88, 93-94, 02-03, 13-14.  That’s not a forecast; I’m just noting that it’s interesting.

What’s ahead?  A mild start to December.  There’s no sign of arctic air or lowland snow.  Check out the ECMWF ensemble forecast of 24 hour snowfall at PDX.  That’s 51 runs of the ECMWF model and not even a hint of snow in the valley through mid-month.


There are hints that we MAY have a wetter pattern arriving, but it’s still 10 days out on the ECMWF…hmmm


The GFS ensembles show the mild weather first half of December


I think the most striking feature is the lack of storminess continuing into early December.  Sure, we had one “bomb cyclone” move into the southern Oregon coastline.  But otherwise it’s been quiet most of the past two months.  There’s quite a bit of a “splitty” look to the upper-level pattern right now and into Tuesday.  See the upper-level low west of California?  It’s “cut off “from the main flow up to our north on Tuesday’s map.  This can tear weather systems apart


An approaching cold trough on Friday appears to be splitting a bit as well


At 10 days out (Wednesday the 11th), the flow is more consolidated, but heights are higher (warmer) than normal.  This would be a wet & warm December pattern.


To summarize:

I don’t see any big weather “events” in the next week that will have any big impact on your life.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Snow & Freezing Rain Tonight For Some of Us

November 30, 2019

4:30pm Saturday…

It’s a cold afternoon in Portland; temperatures are right around 40 degrees and the chilly east wind is back.  That wind will be very strong the next 12 hours, blasting in a supply of cold eastern Oregon air while milder Pacific air with moisture rides over the top.  This IS the classic setup for a snow or ice storm in the Portland Metro area.  But in tonight’s case, temperatures are a bit too “warm” for that to happen, plus we don’t have much precipitation on the way.

In the metro area, and through much of the Willamette Valley, we’re going to see at least an hour or two of mainly snow as precipitation arrives.  As early as 9pm around Albany to maybe midnight up in Clark County and near the Gorge.  But very soon after it starts falling, the air a couple thousand feet up goes above freezing.  That means snowflakes melt to liquid rain drops.  Of course anyone that is near freezing those first hours could see some snow accumulation; probably less than 1″.  That’s most likely out closer to the Coast Range (Forest Grove, Hillsboro, Yamhill, Banks) and hills throughout the Willamette Valley (West Hills, Eola Hills, South Salem hills etc…).  But ANYONE could see a quick dusting.  Nothing has changed with models today; none showing any significant snowfall.  The latest ECMWF model agrees, although I think it’s a bit too dry in general.


Once we go to liquid rain, the remaining “threat” is freezing rain.  That cold wind screaming out of the Gorge means most areas east of I-205, and metro hills above 500′ or so (West Hills, Mt. Scott etc…) will drop to freezing.  Expect an icy glazing on any outdoor objects in those areas.  Although for roads to freeze up, air temps need to drop down to around 30 degrees.  That’ll be tough to do except right around Troutdale/Camas and the top of West Hills or Mt. Scott.


Freezing Rain Ice Accum Warnings Metro2

All the rest of the Willamette Valley should escape freezing rain and/or more than a dusting of snow.  95% of us won’t see any effect on our daily lives tonight or Sunday.

The cold east wind continues Sunday, but temperatures rise to around 40 degrees in the metro area.  Any icy roads near the Gorge should slowly thaw by midday, and the rest of us will just see bare and wet or dry roads.  Your life can continue as planned Sunday in MOST of the metro area.  For sure after 10am even in those colder icy spots.

In the Columbia River Gorge, expect snow at first, then warmer air overhead west of the Cascades (around Multnomah Falls westward) changes that snow to freezing rain.  Late tonight and tomorrow morning I-84 may be very icy from Troutdale to mid-Gorge, then snow-packed roadway beyond that point

Gorge Wintry Weather Text 1aGorge Wintry Weather Text 1b

With easterly flow continuing tomorrow, temperatures will only crawl a few degrees above freezing so I-84 ice/snow will be slow to melt off the roadway.  Keep a close eye on ODOT cameras and TripCheck.  Plus FOX12 will be on the air with Good Day Oregon at 6am.  Monday would be a much better day to travel through the Gorge; or consider going over Hwy 26 around Mt. Hood.  No freezing rain and snow level near 4,000′ means not much snow/ice once you get below the summit on the west side of the passes.

For the weather geeks

As you can see, no big changes to my thinking.  I’m watching those temperatures/dewpoints closely this afternoon.  A good guess for how much the temperature will fall with evaporative cooling tonight is to take 1/3 of the temp/dewpoint difference and subtract it from the current temp.  For example, right now Troutdale is 39/17.  That’s a 22 degree difference.  1/3 of that is about 7.  Take 7 off the 39 and you get about 32 degrees once evaporative cooling has kicked in.  Subtract another 2 degrees since it’ll probably be around 34-35 when precip starts in Troutdale; so maybe we bottom out around 30 at Troutdale later tonight?  That’s why I’m thinking there may be some icy roads that close in to the metro area.  Same temperature setup up on the West Hills and Mt. Scott.  Farther south in the valley dewpoints are higher so it will be tougher to get down to freezing.

WRF-GFS soundings continue to show quite a warm layer surging in overhead right after precipitation begins.  It’s almost a perfect “snow sounding” at 10pm over Portland


Then a sharp warmup around 2,000′ overhead by 1am (near freezing at the surface though with cold Gorge outflow).  This is a freezing rain setup, if your neighborhood is at/below freezing.  Otherwise a real nice 35 degree rainy night…


ECMWF and GFS both show the warming up around 925 mb as well.  That’s why I’ve been leaning more toward liquid precipitation instead of snow since yesterday.

The latest WRF snow forecast confirms little/no accumulating snow west of the Cascades, best chance for an inch would be in those previously mentioned communities right up against the Coast Range east slopes.  That shows up on this graphic.  Dallas, Willamina, maybe Yamhill?


That’s it for now.  I’ll be on the air at 8 & 9pm on FOX12PLUS, then 10pm on FOX12.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

A Few Snowflakes While You Sleep Saturday Night; But Snowy & Icy in the Gorge

November 29, 2019

6pm Friday…

A quick blog post this evening; busy on evening newscasts.  You can find me there.


  1. Saturday will be just like today, although clouds thicken a bit in the afternoon and a strong east wind starts blowing out of the Gorge by sunset
  2. If you live west of the Cascades in the lowlands, I don’t expect snow/ice to have any effect on your life this weekend.  95% of us will see bare roads
  3. The Columbia River Gorge could be a real mess late tomorrow night through at least midday Sunday. 1-4″ new snow, followed possibly by some light freezing rain.  That’s most likely (freezing rain) at the western end


Friday was a nice day once again…after a very chilly start!  It was the coldest morning so far this “winter”; only 26 in Portland.  The cold east wind has backed off as well.  Tonight will be similar with coldest metro spots down into the upper teens again and mid-upper 20s in the city.

Saturday starts sunny, but then clouds show up the 2nd part of the day.  The only other change will be a noticeable (chilly) east wind strengthening in the late afternoon through the evening.  Highs top out in the low-mid 40s once again.

Tomorrow night a very weak weather system passes overhead, dropping light precipitation sometime after 10pm and that continues through early Sunday.  The first few hours it could fall as snow, but I doubt temperatures will drop down to freezing in most of the metro area.  That means a dusting at best for a few spots while we sleep.   After 1am or so, warming air overhead would change most snow to rain.  BUT, near and in the Gorge that cold wind could lead to light freezing rain on top of a few inches of snow .

Regardless, roads in the metro area should be fine during this little event for 95% of usSUNDAY DRIVING WEST OF THE CASCADES WILL FEATURE BARE PAVEMENT ONLY

Snow Tonight Forecast 1

Snow Valley Salem Coast Forecast

Snow Valley Salem Coast Forecast2


A few points:

  • WRF-GFS soundings don’t inspire much confidence for snow.  See the “warm layer” develop sometime after midnight on a southeast wind.  The three soundings are 10pm, 1am, & 7am

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  • No model is showing any significant accumulations (beyond a dusting in spots.  Check out the WRF-GFS snow forecast


A closer view…


Hot off the presses…the 18z ECMWF, maybe a little in the Eola Hills west of Salem?  And cold air pushed up against the east slopes of the Coast Range could give a little snow to Yamhill, Forest Grove, & Banks…if everything works just right:


The pressure gradient through the Gorge jumps to around 10 millibars by Sunday morning.  It’ll probably be a 70 mph east wind night in Corbett and around Mt. Pleasant.  The airmass is cold enough that when the west end of the Gorge goes to liquid rain during the night, it’ll likely be freezing rain as far west as Troutdale or Camas.  This may be one of those situations with icing on objects but not pavement…we’ll see.

This is the only interesting weather I see in the next week, very mild weather continues with no sign of a long wet spell…yet.

I’ll have a fresh blog post up late tomorrow afternoon or early evening.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Rumors of Snow Fly Again; But Don’t Plan On Building A Snowman

November 28, 2019

9pm Thursday…

It’s a long evening here at FOX12 with only one 10pm show; good time to clean the weather center!  Now I see rumors of snow are flying around again this evening, so here’s a quick post to summarize.  Maybe more important…would some of you stay off those online shopping sites so I can get my shopping done here at work?  I can’t even get through to the one that sells large pallets of toilet paper and roast chickens, what is the world coming to…


A weak weather disturbance moves overhead Saturday night, passing north across the region quickly.  It’ll likely be gone by sunrise or so Sunday.  There will be some light rain showers with this as it passes by

  • Models imply there will be little or no snow or freezing rain west of the Cascades; I agree.
  • That’s because there’s a good chance westside temperatures will be a bit too warm (just barely). OR, a few thousand feet overhead it’ll be above freezing, which means flakes would make it down to us as liquid rain drops.  If so, it would need to be down around 31 degrees or lower for those drops to freeze on contact (freezing rain).  That seems even more unlikely than snow since we may not make it down to freezing Saturday night.
  • There’s no chance this turns into one of those all-day snow or freezing rain episodes; it just isn’t that cold to start with.

The evening WRF-GFS gives no snow to lowest elevations west of the Cascades.


The latest ECMWF tries to give us just a little snow Saturday night, although temps stay above freezing the whole time…hmmm


The GFS & GEM models are like the WRF and say “nope, not this time PDX”

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It WILL be cold enough for snow or freezing rain in the Gorge, at least east of Multnomah Falls.  I’ll keep a close eye on it and have a more detailed blog post tomorrow

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

A Quiet Thursday-Saturday Across the Pacific Northwest

November 27, 2019

6pm Wednesday…

Yesterday’s storm was exciting, but now it has fizzled over in Eastern Oregon.  There are still areas of snow falling across the Cascades, Eastern Gorge, and Eastern Oregon.  But in general we’ll be drying out region-wide by midday Thursday.  The strong northeasterly “upslope” flow into the Cascades dumped a huge amount of very dry snow on Mt. Hood ski resorts.  Even though that snow will compress a bit, it’s enough to allow Timberline, Mt. Hood Meadows, & Mt. Bachelor to offer some lift-served skiing this weekend.  Skibowl is opening their tubing runs Friday.

Mark Ski Areas Opening

I don’t see much more snow in the next week.  First it’ll be dry, then mainly dry but warmer next week

7 Day Forecast GOVT CAMP

Have travel plans?  Tough over the Cascades right now, but things should gradually improve through the weekend

Snow MtHood Outlook

All other Cascade and Siskiyou mountain highways are open this evening.  Here’s what you can expect elsewhere

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Offshore (easterly) flow continues through Saturday.  At that time an approaching upper-level low and surface low tighten things up a bit.  Expect much stronger easterly wind near/in the western Gorge Saturday PM and night.  At the same time all models agree a very weak band of precipitation moves north across Oregon and southern Washington.  This CAN be a classic setup for a brief freezing rain or snow event in the metro area.  At this point I’m thinking many areas west of the Cascades will be too warm for frozen precipitation.  The 18z ECMWF model ensembles think it could be a minimal or “non-event”.  Only 7 of 51 members give us an inch of snow or more during that time.  The rest are either too warm at the surface, too warm overhead (possible freezing rain), or mainly dry.   This would explain my lack of enthusiasm for some real wintry weather in the metro area this weekend.  We’ll see how it looks in 24-48 hours.


Our headlines graphic captures the general plan for this four-day weekend well

Mark Headlines Thanksgiving Week

I’ll be working through next Monday, keeping a close eye on things through the holiday weekend.  Check back again Friday for a weekend update on this weather blog.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving!  Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen