Where’s La Nina?

The whining is beginning to pick up.  From two areas:  First, the general public is now beginning to notice that this January is one mild month!   Snowpack is well below average in the Cascades in the last week of January during a moderate-strong La Nina winter.  I don’t think anyone expected that!  And the average weather junkie noticed the issue about two weeks ago when any chance for low elevation snow or cold totally evaporated from forecast maps.  Two weeks later…still nothing is in the forecast through at least the first few days of February (middle of next week). 

So what’s going on?  The big picture is that we’ve seen persistent upper level ridging near or over the west coast of North America most of this month, and that won’t change in at least the next 7 days.  A deep and cold trough is situated over SE Canada, bringing wave after wave of cold and snow to the eastern 1/3 of the USA at the same time.  Most of the population of the USA is east of the Mississippi River, so we hear a lot more about that.  Not much attention has been given to our mild weather, or the extremely mild weather in most of northern/eastern Canada.  Check out the surface temperature departure from normal over the last 14 days…well above average in the western USA.

I should point out that I was NOT one of those forecasting a “mother of all winters”.  In fact that’s the 2nd or 3rd time in the last 5-6 years I’ve heard certain people forecast that as early as August-September.  Talk about wishcasting…  But I was definitely one of those that believed we had a better than average chance for snow/cold/action this winter.  And there is still time for that.  The last 3 weeks of February COULD still be crazy; we don’t know that yet of course.  But it COULD happen.  Winter is definitely not cancelled yet.  Now if nothing has changed two weeks from now, then that statement would be perfectly reasonable.  We don’t get prolonged arctic blasts or days-long snowstorms with highs below freezing after about Valentines Day.  The increasing sun angle starts to take it’s toll on marginal snow/ice climates like ours by that time.  So I would argue that REAL winter in the lowlands of western Oregon and Washington is over after about mid-February.  That’s only 3 weeks away.

The more important question is why have we have such a strong ridge over us for so long in the middle of winter and why the atmosphere seems to be so locked up?  I haven’t heard a good reason yet.  Cliff Mass talks about it on his excellent blog today here.  And I read an interesting article in the New York Times today that had a few theories.  Maybe the most important point to take from that article was that climate scientists and meteorologists can only guess for now.

So how can this possibly happen during a moderate-strong La Nina?  It’s very rare, but it has happened before.  1999-2000 was a very tame winter, 2nd year of a 2 year long La Nina.  Snowfall that winter was below average in the mountains, although the heaviest snow WAS in January.  Otherwise I don’t see any other January as pitiful as this one during a moderate-strong La Nina winter.  A bit unprecedented.

For the skiers and snowboarders, the good news is that snowfall in the mountains during La Nina winters tends to be best in February and March, so there’s still plenty of time for things to turn around.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

237 Responses to Where’s La Nina?

  1. Ben Randall says:

    REGIONAL TEMPERATURE AND PRECIPITATION TABLE
    NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE PENDLETON OREGON
    423 PM PST THU JAN 27 2011

    :MAX TEMP IS THE 18 HOUR MAXIMUM TEMPERATURE ENDING AT 4:00 PM
    :MIN TEMP IS THE 18 HOUR MINIMUM TEMPERATURE ENDING AT 4:00 PM
    :PRECIPITATION AND SNOWFALL ARE 24 HOUR TOTALS ENDING AT 4:00 PM

    NORTHWEST OREGON AND SW WASHINGTON
    .BR PDX 0128 DH00/TAIRZS/TAIRZI/PPDRZZ/SFDRZZ/SDIRZZ
    : MAX MIN 24 HR 24 HR SNOW
    :ID STATION ELEV TEMP TEMP PCPN SNFL DEPTH
    AST : ASTORIA 11 : 53 / 35 / 0 / M / M
    SSDO3: SEASIDE 10 : M / M / M / M / M
    TMK : TILLAMOOK 36 : 66 / 41 / 0 / M / M
    ONP : NEWPORT 130 : 66 / 45 / 0 / M / M
    FRCO3: FLORENCE 5NE 50 : 68 / 44 / 0 / M / M
    KLS : KELSO, WA 25 : 50 / 34 / 0 / M / M
    SPB : SCAPPOOSE 35 : 49 / 33 / 0.01 / M / M
    VUO : VANCOUVER.. WA 25 : 55 / 36 / 0 / M / M
    PDX : PORTLAND..AIRPRT 27 : 55 / 35 / 0 / M / M
    PGWO3: PORTLAND..DWNTWN 160 : 54 / 37 / 0 / M / M
    TTD : TROUTDALE 35 : 56 / 34 / 0 / M / M
    HIO : HILLSBORO 204 : 46 / 36 / 0 / M / M
    UAO : AURORA 196 : 45 / 37 / 0 / M / M
    MMV : MCMINNVILLE 160 : 44 / 36 / 0 / M / M
    SLE : SALEM 210 : 57 / 37 / 0 / M / M
    FNWO3: CORVALLIS 308 : 47 / 35 / 0 / M / M
    EUG : EUGENE 369 : 62 / 32 / 0 / M / M
    4S2 : HOOD RIVER 630 : 45 / 32 / 0 / M / M
    .END

    SOUTHWESTERN AND SOUTH CENTRAL OREGON
    .BR PDX 0128 DH00/TAIRZS/TAIRZI/PPDRZZ/SFDRZZ/SDIRZZ
    : MAX MIN 24 HR 24 HR SNOW
    :ID STATION ELEV TEMP TEMP PCPN SNFL DEPTH
    OTH : NORTH BEND 11 : 68 / 43 / 0 / M / M
    BOK : BROOKINGS ARPT 459 : 65 / 44 / 0 / M / M
    RBG : ROSEBURG 525 : 62 / 33 / 0 / M / M
    SXT : SEXTON SUMMIT 3958 : 57 / 45 / 0 / M / M
    MFR : MEDFORD 1330 : 59 / 25 / 0 / 0 / 0
    LMT : KLAMATH FALLS 4090 : 52 / 24 / 0 / M / M
    LKV : LAKEVIEW 4730 : M / 23 / 0 / M / M
    .END

    NORTHEASTERN AND NORTH CENTRAL OREGON
    .BR PDX 0128 DH00/TAIRZS/TAIRZI/PPDRZZ/SFDRZZ/SDIRZZ
    : MAX MIN 24 HR 24 HR SNOW
    :ID STATION ELEV TEMP TEMP PCPN SNFL DEPTH
    QPF : PENDLETON(CITY) 1040 : 47 / 31 / 0 / 0 / 0
    BDN : BEND(ARPT) 3454 : 59 / 34 / 0 / 0 / M
    HRI : HERMISTON 640 : 38 / 35 / 0 / 0 / M
    JSY : JOSEPH(ARPT) 4120 : 30 / 27 / 0 / 0 / M
    GCD : JOHN DAY(ARPT) 3700 : 55 / 32 / 0 / 0 / M
    LGD : LA GRANDE 2700 : 39 / 34 / 0 / 0 / M
    QLX : LEXINGTON(ARPT) 1624 : 54 / 30 / 0 / 0 / M
    MEH : MEACHAM 3726 : 43 / 30 / 0 / 0 / M
    PDT : PENDLETON(ARPT) 1495 : 43 / 29 / T / T / 0
    RDM : REDMOND 3077 : 61 / 28 / 0 / 0 / M
    DLS : THE DALLES 250 : 42 / 37 / 0 / 0 / M
    ELN : ELLENSBURG..WA 1759 : 36 / 29 / 0.01 / M / M
    HMS : HANFORD..WA 733 : 37 / 35 / 0 / 0 / M
    PSC : PASCO..WA 407 : 40 / 36 / 0 / 0 / M
    RLD : RICHLAND(ARPT)..WA 390 : 39 / 36 / M / M / M
    FCT : YAKIMA TC..WA 1371 : 34 / 30 / 0 / 0 / M
    YKM : YAKIMA..WA 1060 : 39 / 34 / 0 / 0 / M
    ALW : WALLA WALLA..WA 1210 : 40 / 33 / 0 / 0 / M
    .END

    EXTREME EASTERN AND SOUTHEASTERN OREGON
    .BR PDX 0128 DH00/TAIRZS/TAIRZI/PPDRZZ/SFDRZZ/SDIRZZ
    : MAX MIN 24 HR 24 HR SNOW
    :ID STATION ELEV TEMP TEMP PCPN SNFL DEPTH
    BKE : BAKER CITY 3370 : 35 / 30 / 0 / 0 / M
    BNO : BURNS 4140 : 36 / 12 / 0 / 0 / M
    ONO : ONTARIO 2190 : 37 / 33 / 0 / 0 / M
    REO : ROME 4050 : 32 / 24 / 0 / 0 / M
    .END

    FREEZING LEVELS ACROSS THE NORTHWESTERN CONTIGUOUS USA
    .BR PDX 0127 P DH16/HZ
    : FREEZING LEVEL / FZL CHANGE
    :ID LOCATION AND ELEV. NOW -12HR/ -24HR/ 12HRS/ 24HRS
    SLE :SALEM (SFC = 0.2): 10.5: 11.7/ 11.0/ -1.2/ -0.5
    MFR :MEDFORD (SFC = 1.3): 11.2: 12.3/ 11.7/ -1.1/ -0.5
    BOI :BOISE (SFC = 2.9): 11.5: 10.7/ 9.5/ 0.8/ 2.0
    :BOTH ELEVATION AND FRZG DATA IN 1000S OF FEET (MSL)
    .END

    :..STATE TEMPERATURE EXTREMES…

    MAX TEMP… 68 FLORENCE
    NORTH BEND

    MIN TEMP… 12 BURNS

    :..STATE PRECIPITATION EXTREMES…

    MAX PRECIP… 0.01 SCAPPOOSE

  2. Josh in Puyallup says:

    The last 3 days I haven’t been above 45. and the last 2 days I’ve been stuck in a fog.

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