The Big Picture: Big Slowdown in Weather Again

I hate to pose the question and ruffle feathers, but IS THAT ALL WE GET FOR WINTER?

Let’s recap the wet season/winter so far: 

1.  We had a briefly wet November with some stormy weather and some good mountain snow in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. 

2.  7 weeks of weather boredom followed, punctuated by only a few days of heavy rain right after Christmas that soaked the ski areas too.

3. An exciting one week of weather last week with snow to the lowlands (for most of us), but we missed out on big snow totals and the big ice storm up in Puget Sound.  We did get a nice windstorm at the coast, and then the worst flooding in 15 years down in the Central Willamette Valley.

4. This week we’ve returned to mainly boring weather, except for the heavy rain yesterday.

One could sum it up by saying we had active weather in late November, a few days in late December, and one week in mid-late January.  The reason I say this is that long range models are in quite good agreement that we’re headed back into the weather boredom over the next 10 days.  The Canadian, ECMWF, and GFS all show an upper-level height anomaly developing over the western part of North America beginning about one week from now (around February 2nd) and continuing through the end of their respective runs.  Here is the chart from the 00z GFS for a week from next Monday:

and the 12z ECMWF:

The details are slightly different but the pattern is the same.  When you combine weak ridging this weekend, then some warm weather systems next week, and then add these maps, you get a 7-10 day forecast that isn’t too exciting.

Even the ensemble forecast charts show little deviation from what the operational models are showing, here’s the 12z ECMWF, note the above average 850mb temps starting about a week from now:


Same thing with the new 00z GFS:

That will take us through the first week of February.  It’s no secret that we don’t get long arctic blasts or prolonged ice/snow storms in the lowlands after the 2nd week of February, so we’re running low on time.  But it could still be waiting for us on February 10th-20th…who knows?

So IT”S POSSIBLE that we get through this year without an arctic blast; keep in mind it hasn’t been below the mid 20s here in Portland…a mild winter so far…If the maps look similar 10 days from now, I’ll be ready to say we’re done with the chance for an arctic blast.

But it’s also important to remember that we can get significant (several inches) sticking snow through the first week of March.  We’ve officially had 2.2″ here in the city this winter so far.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


37 Responses to The Big Picture: Big Slowdown in Weather Again

  1. Kyle says:

    We were having hot summers and in 2006 we got AC and the hot weather suddenly stopped.

  2. PDX Weather Nut says:

    Pretty sucky winter here so far … about an inch of snow and that’s it 😦

  3. W7ENK says:

    Well well well, what have we here?

    I guess I’ll go ahead and get my tomatoes started early this year! 😉

  4. chris s says:

    Holy blowtorch 18z!!!!!!!!!!, get the boats and jet skis out. This winter is looking like it is done.

  5. pdxgeologist says:

    Looks like Meadows is getting close to opening Heather Canyon just in time for spring skiing.

  6. jakeinthevalley says:

    Nuiqsut, AK @ 11am pst

    Temp -49 Wind SW@9mph Chill -76

  7. Mark Reschke says:

    I would also point out that just five days ago (or so) the models showed a long-range cold shift for the region. That didn’t pan out, so hopefully this won’t pan out either.

    Strangely enough, if the models ever play out correctly, they seem to lean towards being correct for the warmer side of the coin. Go figure…

    Winter just about over? Could be…

    • David B says:

      I wouldn’t say that they all play out to the warm side. The models for the time covered by the recent big winter storm in Washington initially were mostly not forecasting a scenario as cold and snowy as we got up here.

    • Mark Reschke says:

      Correct David. Thus the reason why I said “… seem to lean towards…” as I know they do not always work out that way, just mostly. Alas, it is very difficult to get any sustained arctic air in our region for any period of time.

      Already longing for 16″ of prolonged snow cover in the metro area once again. Let’s just hope it won’t take another 40 years or so…

    • o.c.paul says:


    • PDX Weather Nut says:

      Strange to talk about winter being over when it isn’t even February.

  8. David B says:

    It’s important to remember that neither Seattle nor Portland inevitably get an arctic blast plunging temperatures into the teens each winter. During the 1990s, it seemed to average out as just under one per year (most years had at least one, an occasional year had two, an occasional year had none at all).

    Then in the early 2000s we had a string of years where it never got colder than the mid-20s. That was broken by the cold snap that gave Portland its epic snow/ice storm of 2004 (the one that closed PDX airport for days).

    Toward the end of 2000s and through last winter, arctic blasts seemed to get more prevalent, with at least one per winter and sometimes multiple ones. We even got a doozy of one in 2009, which was an El Niño year (when there’s statistically less chance of such a thing happening).

    Even up here in Seattle this year, we basically missed out on the recent arctic blast: while it got down to 10 in Bellingham, it never got lower than the mid-20s in the central and southern Puget Sound regions. It ended up being a doozy of a storm for us for reasons of frozen precipitation amounts and duration only, not for extreme cold.

    Main point is that it would hardly be unprecedented if we don’t get colder than the mid-20s this year. Or even next year as well, for that matter.

  9. Was it mid Feb last year when the pattern made an about face? Still time for a blast of winter. But if not, bring on a warm dry spring please!

    • Jethro (Canby ~187') says:

      It was on February 7th that Mark made his “Just 10 Days Away” post, and then after the 15th the ‘pattern change’ and ‘cold weather ahead’ posts started coming. February 23rd was our last chance winter dance.

    • David B says:

      @Jethro: The point being that it was indeed a “last chance winter dance;” that cold snap would doubtless have been colder and longer-lasting had it happened in December or January.

    • And that late pattern change not only salvaged a lousy snow pack but also screwed up Spring all the way to July!

  10. Some sticking snow currently at my house in the PSCZ. Don’t throw in the towel yet.

  11. WestHills500 says:

    I am going to take the snow tires off tomorrow.

  12. vinnybob says:

    If this is all the Portland area is gonna get for winter.. bring me the warm stuff.

  13. […] Heaviest Rainfall: 1.92″ at RED MOUND(1753ft) Reply […]

  14. bgb41 says:

    1/25/2012 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:60 at BURNT RIDGE(2955 ft) & DW7799 Heppner(2103 ft) & CW8140 Spray(1772 ft)
    Low: 52 at CW5925 Coos Bay(49 ft)

    High:28 at Timberline Lodge(7001 ft)
    Low: 22 at Timberline Lodge (7001 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 26 degrees
    CW2286 Monument (57/31 ) (2021 ft )

    Heaviest Rainfall:
    1.92″ at RED MOUND(1753ft)

  15. Off topic…..anyone hear anything about the large helicopter(s) flying VERY low around Rainier/Scappoose/Vernonia?? The non emergency dispatcher said she was getting tons of calls & could not explain it. It was not LifeFlight.

    • SilentReader says:

      probably them looking for drug operations in the mountains 🙂 Columbia county is a hot spot for drug houses. guessing with FLIR etc they can see hot spots against the colder background nicely this time of year. 🙂

      OR (more likely)

      “Finding Big Foot” crews are in town. After all Columbia country is also very “Squatchy”. LOL what a dumb show.

    • muxpux (Castle Rock, WA 175') says:

      i heard it fly over longview. and yeah, it wasnt lifeflight, it didnt land at the hospital. i was outside when it flew over. no idea.

    • Longview - 400 ft says:

      One had all their lights off and the one followed close (very close) by with its lights on.
      I was wondering as well what was going on.

    • We had one fly over Battle Ground and it was literally the closest I’ve been to a helicopter outside of being in one!

    • Emily Waldman says:

      I wondered about that too last night! One when right over the Three Rivers Mall in Kelso around 8ish pm! Then again before 9:30p right over the house in Columbia Heights area!

    • halverbk says:

      From a friend who takes her dog to Indigo Ranch on occasion: “Weird landings and takings off at night just beyond the airport. Across the private road from Indigo Ranch. The folks who work there say there are times that helicopters will land 2 or 3 times a night, be on the ground just for a few minutes, and then take off again.”

      Drug runners? CIA Safe House? DEA?

      Go conspiracy theorists, go.

      Or Mark – maybe your news team should check this out?

  16. W7ENK says:

    One word: “Eeew”!

  17. IceCold says:

    I totally loathe the winters in the PNW!

  18. Chuck on Mt Scott says:

    Ok, this proves it is my fault. I signed my kids up for ski lessons for the entire month of February. I bought studded snow tires for my car. I bought a ski rack. All this in this week. Now we are back to bleh. In December, I bought all my ski gear and my night pass at Meadows. You all saw what happened then :O
    Maybe I should order a pool and have it installed? We would get 5 ft of snow and Arctic blast after Arctic blast.

    • LOL…awwww….that’s bad…..hope the skis still fit the kids next year. REALLY???? are you really gonna get a pool. If you do let me know so I can go buy a new snow shovel. So sorry for all your bad luck/timing

  19. Sifton says:

    Spring time anyone??? OH YEAH!!!

  20. john says:

    when would you say the last chance here in Olympia is thanks

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