Is Winter Over? Yes and No

It’s that time;  I’m getting emails and questions wondering if “that was it” for our pathetic Winter 2011-2012.  It sure has been a disappointment if you were looking for some crazy weather goodness…

What we have seen:
-significant flooding
-one brief lowland snow (2.2″ at PDX 9pm-1am)
-many weeks of dry or almost dry weather

What we haven’t seen:
-major windstorm
-lowland snow kids could actually sled on
-arctic blast with very cold temps
-several snow events or one big snowstorm

I’m definitely not ready to scream “WINTER IS OVER!” from the top of Rocky Butte, but here are some thoughts of what could still occur over the next month and what we are probably finished with.

It’s important to point out that this is based on what I see on maps and models right now.  It’s clear that there is little or no threat of cold/snow or flooding in the lowlands of western Oregon and western Washington through the next 7-10 days

That takes us all the way to around the 18th of February.   Based on that…

(About 90% confidence on these)

1. An extended period of cold weather (a big arctic blast)
– record low and “low-high” temps jump quite a bit the 2nd half of February.  It’s extremely rare to get down to 20 or below after the 16th.  It’s only happened 3 times (18 degrees the last week of February last year!).  Maybe more notable is the increasing sun angle means it’s hard to keep daytime temps down near freezing even with a very cold air mass.  We don’t get an all-day “frozen roads” storm after mid February for this reason.  After the 16th, only 3-4 times (in 70 years) have we seen high temps stay near freezing.
2. A multi-day snowstorm like 2004 or 2008
– same reasoning, record low maximum temps (coldest daytime highs) are 33-44 for the last 10 days of February.  Hard to keep the streets frozen in that case. 
3. A big flooding event
– we don’t tend to see significant, widespread winter flooding after we get through early February, and no models show wetter than average weather the next 10 days.
4. Freezing rain anywhere outside of the Gorge

(But none of these are expected in the next 7-10 days)

1. Snowfall in the lowest elevations
– everything has to line up just right in our climate to get snow in mid-winter at the lowest elevations.  But to get significant snow the last week or so of February? Everything really has to line up perfectly.  In the last 15 years, we’ve only had 4 measurable snowfalls in Portland in late February or March.  An inch or less each time.  Feb 2011, Feb 2009, March 2009, and March 2006.  That shows everything has to line up just right.
2. Significant snowfall in the Gorge and/or foothills above 1,000′
3. A blast of cold & dry air for a damaging late season freeze
– sure, we may not get a days-long freeze, but we can get a quick blast of winter cold.  Look at last year!  February 25th-26th saw highs 33-34 at PDX and a low down to 18.  That’s extreme & rare, but it CAN happen. 
4. A major windstorm
– we can get these through early March, although they aren’t nearly as common as during the fall and winter months

To summarize, Yes winter is somewhat over, but no, we could still see snow at the lowest elevations in the next 3-4 weeks.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

10 Responses to Is Winter Over? Yes and No

  1. wwm says:

    Did it ever begin?

    its always …wait till next year. until we get all of these hot air idiots (politicians) out of here we will never see a decent winter again, except maybe every 5 years or so.

  2. vinnybob says:

    Like I said, wait till next year again

  3. Karl Bonner says:

    This is because we’re moving into the transition season between winter and spring.

  4. Sifton says:

    Lol Mark, your summary reminds me of the GFS, GEM, and ECMWF trying to agree on something!!

  5. W7ENK says:


    Now where’s the little button so I can cast my vote in this poll???

  6. Yevpolo1990 says:

    I am sure that if you want any chance at snow in early March or February you need a nice healthy convective shower over your area and temp hanging around 35/36…

    • Yevpolo1990 says:

      However that likes to prove itself wrong if you live on the west side, because the COAST BEAST. Soooo….areas like Battle Ground can score well.

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