Winter 2011-2012: 4th Warmest Across USA! Dry in Northwest

It wasn’t a “warm” winter here in the Pacific Northwest, but the rest of the country was roasting…well, in a winter sort of way.  It was the 4th warmest winter on record across the USA!  Here’s a chart showing statewide rankings.  Note that 117  is the warmest winter ever recorded in a state and 1 is the coldest winter on record.  Also note how many Midwest states were in the top 2-10 warmest winters.  I doubt they complain about that in such a cold climate!

We were reasonable close to normal here in the Pacific Northwest, with Washington the only state showing below normal temps for the winter period.  By the way, yes, I know technically winter goes until the Spring Equinox in a couple of weeks.  Meteorologists/climatologists define winter in the Northern Hemisphere as the 3 coldest months (December, January, and February). 

Here is the precipitation for the same period:

This map says we’ve had quite a dry winter throughout most of the West.  That’s true for December-February, BUT, for the purposes of water supply and snowpack, November-March is really the important period.  So let’s just take November-February precipitation…sorry, no pretty map this time:

Still the driest “wet season” in the Pacific Northwest in 7 years. Hopefully the next 7-10 days (looking very wet!) will make up for some of that in the mountains.  There have only been 3 drier seasons (so far) since the big 1976 drought year.  This would be due to the endless weeks of no precipitation in December, January, and early February.  That plus these westerly flow setups are horrible for getting precipitation east of the Cascades.  Northern Oregon and Washington have fared okay, on the edge of much heavier precipitation several times; but go south to the Central/Southern Oregon Cascades and east of Central Oregon to find well below average snowpacks.

Where do we go from here?  A ton of rain coming up…check out the WRF-GFS forecast of 3 day rain from Sunday afternoon through Wednesday afternoon next week:

This is a “Cascadia-Level” rainy period!  A big soaking next week from Northern California all the way to Central BC.  All westside mountains are in the 2-5″ range, much of that as snow.  Snow levels will be in the 1,500-4,000′ range from Sunday-Thursday.  Lowest snow level is Sunday night and Monday morning.  Not quite as cold as what we’ve seen lately plus a gusty southwest wind the whole time so I’m not real fired up about it.

Looking for Spring weather?  You have one day.  Tomorrow is the only day with perfect offshore flow (east wind), a much warmer air mass, and sunny or mostly sunny all day.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen





60 Responses to Winter 2011-2012: 4th Warmest Across USA! Dry in Northwest

  1. cosmetice bio…

    […]Winter 2011-2012: 4th Warmest Across USA! Dry in Northwest « FOX 12 Weather Blog[…]…

  2. Kyle says:

    My therometer is at 55F and the reason why I post at night is because I don’t like to model ride after so many snowfall busts and wind pattern busts.

    It’s no longer funny so I just try to get a recap of what’s going on and lately it seems it’s easier to get stuck under any kind of pattern that will NOT bring mountain snowfall making me VERY angry.

    I want to see what a non-drought year is like with a much above average water pack but obviously there is nothing I can do about our pattern of storms falling part.

    I am done off my rant box. I’m outta here and done reporting temps of the area when something exciting DOES happen like the last few days.

    The last few days are going to be my favorite memories of this winter actually going from 30 something to 50s and 60s.

    Besides extreme weather my most favorite are temp jumps like these which is what I have been waiting for all winter long.

    NO FOG VERSION!!!!!!

  3. Kyle says:

    I forgot to mention that when I am tired I let little things irritate me more like all of our snow-busts since 2008.

    You folks up in Portland have had quite a bit more snowfall then down here and I tend to stew over situations.

  4. PaulB/Eugene says:

    66.6F right now at my house in Eugene

  5. Kyle says:

    It got below freezing last night. 60F today? I don’t think so baby! 🙂
    It would have to be a pretty high jump to get there.

    Hope your ready for the ice age when we are stuck in the 50s all summer with only two weeks of heat in September followed by thunderstorms while the rest of the nation has a washout.

    • WEATHERDAN says:

      I generally don’t like to belittle another blogger, but this time I will make an exception. What’s with you man. You make these ridiculous predictions about a record cold summer coming up just for us. Based on what? Are we bitter because we didn’t get the epic cold winter we thought we deserved, or are you just being obstreperous. Just because we had a normal winter this year doesn’t mean a cold summer. So far we are having a near normal early spring. March has some nice days, but also some nasty ones as well. Last summer I posted several times about people posting about the “worst summer ever”. I said wait until the end of summer to see what will happen. Guess what, it wound up being just about normal. If every summer or winter was “epic” then they would all be normal. Grow up and stop making these insipid statements if you want others to take you seriously. Please.

    • chris s says:

      Kyle, you really do make some wierd strange posts that leave me wondering about your sanity and mental health sometimes. What does being below freezing this morning have to do with us not making it to 60 degrees today. Its already 55 at 1pm, I dont think its gonna be to hard to hit 60-62 somewhere in that area. You would get alot more responses to your posts if they were not so out there!!!! Just sayin….. not trying to rip on you or nothing, 🙂

    • gidrons says:

      From what I understand, Kyle is a challenged youth and Mark gives him extra latitude. I suggest emailing Mark with your concerns.

    • FrankC says:

      Could all be a work. His posting times dont indicate he would likely be in high school, but his post sure show junior high or early high school. He seems to have some understanding of weather, but twists it to get a rise out of people. I’m guessing fake poster for sure.

      And the replies to Kyles post have been very kind and not insulting at all. Nice to see.

    • pappoose in scappoose says:

      60F here!

    • W7ENK says:

      You’re correct, @gidrons. From what I understand, Kyle is developmentally disabled, and he sometimes struggles with issues regarding his medications. I can attest that he’s certainly not a “fake poster”, nor do I believe he’s generally trying to “get a rise out of people”.

      We all should be so kind as to cut him a little more slack at times. But Kyle, for your sake, you’re getting a little out there with your posts, dude. Time to reign it in just a bit, bud. 🙂

    • Dave in SW PDX (235') says:

      Already up to 60F at Salem/McNary at 2 pm this afternoon…

    • Kyle says:

      I WAs just teasing. Did you see the smile?

    • Kyle says:

      I don’t mean to take my anger out on people but I’ve been wrongfully accused a lot in life so I have a lot of stress built up.

      I generally hate society but am trying hard to not let it get to me but when I am tired I tend to not do as good of a job.

    • Kyle says:

      The last few fog version winters have made me VERY depressed which I am battling for control right now..

      When I get a chance I plan on moving from this God forsaken climate to somewhere with a bit more variety in temps instead of this fog crap that aches my bones making me feel like an old grandpa in the winter even though I am young. :p

      I didn’t fully realize my negative energy extended so far down the road. I mean blog! Blog road. I am now confused. :p

    • snodaze says:

      I don’t mean to take my anger out on people but I’ve been wrongfully accused a lot in life so I have a lot of stress built up.

      I generally hate society but am trying hard to not let it get to me but when I am tired I tend to not do as good of a job


    • pappoose in scappoose says:

      I’ve so much stress built up, I’m a crazy lunatic. Hahaah!

  6. W7ENK says:

    Updates (via e-mail from the incident management team at my place of employment — edited)

    Leading Edge of March 6 CME Reaches NASA Satellite 03.08.12

    UPDATE 03/08/12 The leading edge of the March 6 coronal mass ejection (CME), reached NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) satellite at 5:42 AM EST. ACE sits just outside of Earth’s magnetic environment, the magnetosphere. As magnetic fields from the CMEs connected up to the magnetosphere, instruments on Earth began to measure changes in our planet’s magnetic fields – indicating the onset of a geomagnetic storm. At the time of writing this was still a minor storm, rated a G1 on a scale of G1 to G5. There will be updates as needed if the rating increases.


    UPDATE 03/08/12 2:30pm EST
    NASA models using data from the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) and the Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) have now provided more information about the two CMEs associated with the two March 6 flares. The first is traveling faster than 1300 miles per second; the second more than 1100 miles per second. NASA’s models predict that the CMEs will impact both Earth and Mars, as well as pass by several NASA spacecraft -Messenger, Spitzer, and STEREO-B. The models also predict that the leading edge of the first CME will reach Earth at about 1:25 AM EST on the morning of March 9 (plus or minus 7 hours). Such a CME could result in a severe geomagnetic storm, causing aurora at low latitudes, with possible disruption to high frequency radio communication, global positioning systems (GPS), and power grids.

    • W7ENK says:

      UPDATE 03/08/12 3:30pm EST
      CME IMPACT: A coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth’s magnetic field on March 8th around 1100 UT. The impact was weaker than expected, sparking only a mild (Kp=5) geomagnetic storm. However, the storm could intensify in the hours ahead depending on electromagnetic conditions in the wake of the CME. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.

    • gidrons says:

      This post from a different forum:
      Sadly, we had the CME equivalent of the High Risk SPC day that busts because the cap didn’t break. In this case the CME hit but the polarity was northward pointing which essentially caps the Gemag activity. So unless we get a swing in the polarity to southward pointing and a good substorm we are through for this one. About evening sky, aside from Venus and Jupiter in the West, we have Mars in the eastern sky as the sun sets and Saturn rises later in the evening. Region 1429 has grown into an Ekc group and is still reverse polarity but some weakening of the magnetic structure has occurred. About the CME polarity, although it’s very important, we currently can’t know what it is until the CME passes ACE and SOHO about 30 minutes before we get since it requires in-situ mwasurements and we have no way of doing that closer to the Sun.

      Its still a big sunspot with probably more flares left in it…and its pointed at earth right now.

  7. bgb41 says:

    3/7/2012 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:64 at Brookings Airpor( 459 ft)
    Low: 37 at NEWPRT Cape Foul(1024 ft)

    High:27 at ANEROID LAKE #2(7300 ft)
    Low: -5 at CRAZYMAN FLAT (6100 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 52 degrees
    CRAZYMAN FLAT (47/-5 ) (6100 ft )

  8. Karl Bonner says:

    Already down to 35F @ 10pm at DLS. Tomorrow is looking like an excellent candidate for a 20s-to-60s day!

  9. The low level SW flow is when I do best for precip, even with snow if the airmass is cold enough. I always underachieve bigtime with NW flow. If the snow level is going to be 1500′ I’d much rather have the showers coming in from the SW than the NW.

  10. …I can sum up this winter in the midwest (only because my kids and grandkids live there…) in two words…TICK HEAVEN…..

  11. WestVan says:


    I want to know if I should get my kids up at 4 to see the aurora (if it shows up) or should I risk letting them sleep until tomorrow night. Will we still have the clear sky? Or will the clouds have come in? If it shows up tonight it would be rare treat to have such a beautiful clear sky to see it in. Although tomorrow might end up being the better opportunity.

    I have only seen it once in my life about 20 years ago in B.C. I would love to see it again.


  12. Andrew (Portland....Sylvan Highlands ~800 feet) says:

    Sea Levels on the decrease, global warming cancel.

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      You guys know I’m not an “alarmist” or “denier”, but…

      Good lord, now a conspiracy to hide sea level data?

      It only took a minute or so to find the data; it was 18 years of rising before the 2 year drop.

      Sea Level Rise Chart

    • Kyle says:

      You can most certainly say your not an *alarmist* or a *denier* but your actions will tell otherwise………………………….

    • Kyle says:

      Also it may be lax where you are (consider yourself lucky as that could change at anytime!) but a lot of scientists with good reputation have either lost their jobs or resigned due to being threatened for speaking out on Global Warming.

      That is NOT how science works. Science should not act like a religion telling people how they should speak if they wish to present either evidence or plain common sense.

      This is not just for you Mark but for anybody who wants to prove what happens to water when you melt ice.

      First Fill a glass of water (preferably large) halfway up and mark it with a pen marker. Then put ice-cubes in to watch them melt. Afterwards report if the water in the cup has risen or fallen then come back on here and explain your results.

    • Andrew (Portland....Sylvan Highlands ~800 feet) says:

      Kyle, yes that theory is true to a point, but not completely. In that experiment, the ice is already in the water, the possible water rise would come from glaciers melting on land and running off into the ocean.

      With that said, i really hate how political this has all become. I believe in global warming and global cooling. I believe the earth goes through NATURAL cycles of both. I don’t believe man has had a substantial impact on the earths temperature.

    • Runrain says:

      Everything is politics and money now. Everything.

      Nice seeing the moon and Mars tonite in the east, and Venus and Jupiter close together in the west. Try to do something about THAT, politics and money!!

    • chris says:

      im with Andrew on this one

    • boydo3 says:

      Kinda like going into spring and still getting a day or two of snow. “See! I told you we’re not going to have Spring” ” You alarmists are just manipulating the science. It’s never going to warm up like you think. Just look at the last week. It was colder than normal. How do you explain that? Huh?”
      Remember Galileo, the church essentially imprisoned him when he proclaimed the Earth revolved around the sun.
      Insofar as I’d like to believe that Man has no effect on climate, science is proving otherwise.

  13. pappoose in scappoose says:

    Think we could swim out to sea with the Lemmings and find snow! Let’s strike out boldly!

  14. Kyle says:

    So I guess the East wind is responsbile for the 60+ temp or is it where the airmass is coming from?

    What is the earliest we can get 60+ temps without it being a tropical airmass where it’s usually cloudy and humid or artifical warmth from south winds?

    What kind of weather pattern would be needed for my dream scenario to happen?

    • Karl Bonner says:

      Occasionally sunny/ridgy 60s can occur in the first half of February in the Willamette Valley, but it takes some downsloping wind and a LOT of luck, otherwise the fogversion sets in. Second half of February sunny and 60+ is much easier along the I-5 corridor, but the odds still tend to be more toward 50s. In March of course, 60s are a piece of cake – if you get the needed combination of sunshine and a reasonably warm atmosphere (850s in the +5 to +10 range should be plenty with a light easterly flow)

    • Kyle says:

      Any good years for the Eugene area to look up where that happened in an extreme way since they have newspaper archives online?

  15. pappoose in scappoose says:

    I’m fired up about it. Let me see some more flakes!

  16. bgb41 says:

    Thank you for the update Mark. Can’t wait till tomorrow (and maybe Friday too). We all have been waiting for this break in winter weather.

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