A Long Dry Spell Ahead

6pm Thursday…

Last night’s forecast was tough, but it all worked out really well this morning.  We forecast NOTHING to a TRACE at the lowest elevations and up to 1″ up around 1,000′ (previous posting).  Most folks at least saw snow in the air, and everyone here at work I’ve talked to had at least some dusting.  That would include east Portland, Happy Valley, Lake Oswego, Beaverton, Tigard, Cedar Mill, West Hills, SW Portland, Oregon City etc…

It looks like inner E/SE Portland, Milwaukie, and North Portland may have seen no sticking?  At least that’s what I could see at 8:30am on the ODOT Cams.  Vancouver may have been hosed too.  I didn’t see much on those traffic cams either.

What a cold day!  The freezing level only went a little bit above the top of the West Hills and appears to be around 1,500′ this evening.  It’ll drop just a little overnight; but with any clearing any spot could drop to or below freezing.  Watch for icy spots if you are on wet roads later.    There are still flurries out there and anyone could see a brief dusting overnight, although I think we’ll be all dry after midnight.

Tomorrow we see drier and cold air coming down from the north, so still a chilly day but much brighter in the afternoon.

Saturday’s Possible Snow:

The verdict is in, models have all gone dry, at least all of today’s models.  Energy and surface low pressure stays well offshore instead of coming down right over us.  So we’ve removed any precipitation wording on our forecast.  Of course there’s a small chance that could change, but everything is screaming DRY for now.

The Long Range:

Wow, either mainly or totally dry for the next 10-14 days!  A strong upper level ridge builds just offshore from Sunday through about the 20th.  Here’s the WRF-GFS for Sunday evening:


With the ridge quite close and high upper-level heights, temps in the higher elevations will be the warmest we have seen in quite a while.  Both the ECMWF and GFS show 50+ degree temperatures up around 5,000′ next Wednesday and Thursday!  We’ll start chilly in the lower elevations of course and we won’t see those temperatures even later next week down here; it’ll be a classic inversion setup. 

Last time we had dry weather with upper level ridging nearby (just to our east) we saw strong east wind; this time will be different.  With an upper level ridge just to our west, surface high pressure will be strong over us and to the west as well.  This means weak ONSHORE flow for at least early next week.  As a result, if we get low-level moisture in here after a cold and dry weekend, we’ll have a tough time getting it out of here.  Yes, this means if we get fog or low clouds they won’t go anywhere.  Our 7 Day forecast looks quite sunny next week but that may or may not happen.  It may be a cool and gray week, we’ll see.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

156 Responses to A Long Dry Spell Ahead

  1. Traci says:

    Does anyone know when the last time we had a “big” snow followed by below freezing temps., so that it stayed on the ground for awhile?
    And, what is the longest time PDX has had snow on the ground (parking lot piles don’t count)?

    • Smith says:

      Dec 2008. The last good winter.

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      That got me thinking. 2008 was the closest when we had the big storm and then it only very slowly melted. But I think you mean it actually froze after at least a couple inches of snow. Wow, it’s been a long time! The Jan. 2007 storm warmed up right after. In 2004 the big storm was part of the warmup too. Is it possible we have to go all the way back to the January 1996 storm. It was followed by about a week of frozen conditions, then the flood. So apparently it’s quite rare to get snow and have it stick around for several days afterwards recently.

    • dharmabum says:

      There was a big snow event in the eary 1990’s with a lot of snow in January, probably over a foot near Oregon City, and this snow stayed around for quite awhile, with piles that slid off of builings etc. staying around for maybe 6 weeks!

    • Traci says:

      Yes Mark, I was thinking about snow hanging around because it was cold enough rather than lots of snow that took longer to melt.

    • Austin_east vancouver says:

      i am confused? is this where we get decent snowfall and it doesn’t melt for a while, because 2008 when we had 15 inches of snow for a while i recall and it took sometime before it melted. plus 1996 was a long time ago i don’t even remember those days lol old timers.

  2. EA_TTD says:

    As Mark alluded to above, a key feature of interest in this pattern will be the duration of it. Say what we want about Saturday’s flirt with snow but every model is showing dry weather lasting for a long time….weeks, perhaps a month even. The Pacific is completely stopped and I don’t know if all of the Beano in Portland could unblock it.

    • runrain says:

      Ha! A constipated Pacific. Perhaps we DON’T wish to look forward to the eventual unblocking!

    • gidrons says:

      I agree. The Euro, which I consider the most accurate of the models, has been forecasting this for some time now. Normally snow pack would be increasing greatly this time of year. Instead, it will be shrinking. It looks especially bad for the Sierras

  3. paulbeugene says:

    GFS MOS has most Willamette Valley stations into the teens at some point in the next few nights. Only thing that would keep that from happening would be fog. I think most places will be decoupling at night (not talking divorce epidemic here..just radiationally cooled surface layer that does not mix with the air above….I think this will be the coldest big ridge we have had here since December 2005…temps in day may be less cold than they were then but will be colder at night I think.

    • Traci says:

      That made me laugh Paul! I hate “wasting” cold weather by not getting any precip. with it, at least some. Why can’t we ever seem to get the big snow followed by the below freezing temps. so that it stays on the ground longer? Anyway, thanks for the update.

    • We had that last year up here in washington snow then it turned much colder then expected. Also was slower then expected to warm up. If i recall portland missed out.

    • alohabb says:

      I would hope super cold nights add TO coupling not DEcoupling.

    • David B. says:

      @400 ft: It seems very difficult to forecast if an inversion will kick in or not during periods of high pressure. If it does, highs later next week could be significantly (as in about 10 degrees) colder than currently forecast.

      I will note that the forecast highs several days out for the clear spell we had around New Years were all significantly warmer than they turned out to be (forecast: mid 40s, actual: upper 30s).

    • gidrons says:

      Paul, I think you’ll be looking at a lot of fog next week.

  4. David B. says:

    Clear frosty morning here up north (Seattle). Hopefully we’ll get a run of sunny days out of this.

  5. runrain says:

    Overnight lows in and around Phoenix, AZ are expected to be lower than Fairbanks. The world turned upside down!

    • runrain says:

      That’s for Sunday night, anyway.

    • gratefulduck says:

      My brother txt’d me last night that they are expecting highs below 50 degrees.. according to the papers and the news down thier that will be the coldest it has been in 25 years!

  6. runrain says:

    Official forecast for the next 14 days:

    Low clouds and fog. High 40 Low 30.

  7. fishinpox says:

    Be careful this morning. I drive 57th through NE and it was pretty slick this morning

  8. icy this AM, looks like we had a flurry overnight as on top of cars and on the deck there are snowflakes/pellets. not enough to turn anything white, you can count em, haha

  9. cgavic says:

    Cgavic 2 in snow 1,100 ft. Sandy

  10. W7ENK says:

    Well, here I was hoping to see some sun before the fogversion took over… Yeah, not so much.

    Visibility is well below 1/4 mile in Milwaukie.

  11. Cold airmass, temp 26.4F with light NW breeze.
    For those who think this ridge will hang around through spring/early summer bringing sun, dry weather, warmth etc, fahgettaboudit. In this – PDO phase, check of recent SST temps shows cooling NE pacific, meaning continued -PDO conditions anticipated. I fully expect return to the recently established late winter/spring pattern of persistent NW trough, cool temps, increased precip. Search your feelings, Luke, you know it to be true! No! No! It’s impossible! It’s gonna be sunny and warm! No Luke, it’s gonna suck, every winter/spring for the next 15 years! Nooo!

  12. cgavic says:

    One inch of snow o/night at 1,100 ft in sandy

  13. DCZ (Hillsboro) says:

    Just got back from a jog about 4:30 am. Streets just looked wet but I encountered several patches of ice. And a very cold breeze from the north. Foggy as well. Roads may be dangerous this morning.

  14. Austin_east vancouver says:

    A wise man told me that we usually get a big snowstorm here every 5 winters. So it makes since that we don’t get snow this year and we get a big one next year. all i really want is to go for a run in the snow is that to much to ask for? well is it mark?

    • dharmabum says:

      That’s real close to my “old rule of thumb” one good snow every 4 years at least it held in the “good old days” when back in ’64….’68…. and then again in 1972 we really got dumped on!

  15. WEATHERDAN says:

    Very interesting prospects the next 16 days. It looks to me like cool to cold the next five days., with a lot of sunshine. I still feel that there is a chance of some snow on Saturday night. The 16th through the 20th the ridge will be very close to us, or right over us. Warm in the mountains with a lot of valley fog. Lows in the 20’s and highs in the 30’s. Then according to the 0600z GFS the ridge reforms to our West for more cold dry weather. until maybe some rain or snow around the 26th. A very unusual forecast to say the least. The one consistent piece of the wild model runs the last several days has been the highly amplified ridge to our West. The mean position of the ridge has changed a bit. But that it will be fairly close to us hasn’t changed. Here is something else to ponder. The last three winters we have not seen a ridge like this of such strength and duration until July. Perhaps we have turned a corner, and we will have a normal or even a warm spring this year. While we nee more snow in the Cascades, we have a healthy surplus of rain this water year. So sit back and enjoy the sunshine. Cold or not.

  16. bgb41 says:

    1/10/2013 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:49 at Tillamook( 63 ft)
    Low: 39 at WYETH(102 ft)

    High:12 at HOWARD Mt Howard(8150 ft)
    Low: -1 at Bly Mountain (Or (4920 ft ) & ALAKES Haines (7979 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 29 degrees
    Sand Creek (US 9 (30/1 ) (4525 ft )
    Bly Mountain (Or (28/-1) (4920 ft)

    Heaviest Rainfall:
    1.02″ at CW5925 Coos Bay(49ft)

  17. The Weather might suck, but our Blazers don’t!
    WOOOOOOOOO what a game!!!!!!

  18. 00z euro = megaridge thru 240. Got fog?

  19. jimbo says:

    Boy what a bunch of negative nelsons!

  20. kdi says:

    Apologize in advance for this gripe. I am a ski snob. I refuse to go to meadows on a weekend or holiday. I bought a midweek pass with the idea i could get some fresh tracks in on any good weekday. Now that the holidays are over, the pattern changes and there are no fresh tracks in sight. Sheesh. Tomorrow would be respectable but i must work.

    Tried to go today but my boot broke on arrival. Just $400 later in a gresham ski shop…

    Anyone for a backcountry trip up newton creek saturday? Last chance for fresh tracks for a while.

    • But this pattern is gonna save me a bunch of dough. I was planning on getting some big wide powder skis this winter. Now…maybe not.

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      You had to drive all the way to Gresham to get a new boot. Doesn’t Wapinitia have any ski shops? 🙂

    • kdi says:

      When i started my day i didnt plan on going to gresham and spending 400 clams. I should have just stayed in wapinitia and counted juniper berries. Oh well, i had to talk to clients on the phone there and back so can i deduct my trip? $400 line item for professional wardrobe? I see no problem with that.

  21. alohabb says:

    Well streets are really wet here after rain shower and nlnoq down to 32! Roads are gonna be slick!!

  22. swift says:

    Well that’s that, models can’t even give us a little snowstorm for this weekend. It went from several inches to ZERO, see you all next winter.

  23. *BoringOregon* says:

    Wow huge snow storm out here snow is going side ways temp is going down to its about 33 out !!!

  24. paulbeugene says:

    That GFS 00z run was a teaser about retrogression prior to day 10

  25. Doppler Dave (NE Portland) says:

    Moderate sleet shower underway here in NE Portland, with a temp of 36.3.

    • pdx at 244ft says:

      likewise yet the temp is still holding near 36F with that moderate shower, black ice likely near 5am, as we get earlier morning clearing.

    • Shannon (Gresham, ~900') says:

      Pouring snow here, between Damascus and Gresham, ~900 feet. Just started a bit ago and. Have almost and inch!

  26. Jordan (Raleigh Hills, 420') says:

    Radar says its dry here in Raleigh Hills, but its raining / snowing outside! slowly turning to mostly snow, and i’m sure it will stop soon.

  27. This talk of onshore flow during the upcoming dry spell raises the question: what are the chances of some west wind through the Gorge, with a few sunny 45-50 degree days at The Dalles?

  28. Tyler Mode in Battle Ground says:

    There is always hope!

    January/February 1996:


    27th / 40.4 / 31.9
    28th / 41.3 / 30.2
    29th / 38.8 / 23.1
    30th / 27.1 / 13.8
    31st / 32.4 / 15.4

    1st / 33.7 / 7.9
    2nd / 33.3 / 7.2
    3rd / 33.8 / 9.6
    4th / 39.4 / 21.9

    That 7.2 for a low still stands as my lowest temperature for my station.

    I’d say a late January blast would show up in the models in about 10 more days.

    • David B. says:

      I’ve seen decent arctic blasts as late as President’s Day weekend. Beyond then, there just seems to be too much solar heating for any deep freeze conditions to really set in. But I’m rooting for late January so the forecast I made last month has a chance of ending up correct.

    • Chris s says:

      Ya Tyler that is the hope, but I think most of us will pass on what happened about a week after that event.!!

  29. i had a foot of snow on the ground here last winter, and 2 seperate occasions of snow on the ground for a couple days. this last time about 2″. so its been a decent couple winters up here. i would like a big cold snap though. those are fun.

  30. Amazing inversion temps from Mary’s Peak (elev 4137) on December 17th 2011. Salem topped out at 39f that day.

    12-17-2011 12:45 PST 72.3 21
    12-17-2011 12:50 PST 75.9 18
    12-17-2011 12:55 PST 76.1 19
    12-17-2011 13:00 PST 75.6 19
    12-17-2011 13:05 PST 74.9 19
    12-17-2011 13:10 PST 74.2 20
    12-17-2011 13:15 PST 73.6 19
    12-17-2011 13:20 PST 73.3 20
    12-17-2011 13:25 PST 72.4 20
    12-17-2011 13:30 PST 69.7 22
    12-17-2011 13:35 PST 69.3 24
    12-17-2011 13:40 PST 71.4 21
    12-17-2011 13:45 PST 73.2 20
    12-17-2011 13:50 PST 73.7 20
    12-17-2011 13:55 PST 72.5 21
    12-17-2011 14:00 PST 72.6 21
    12-17-2011 14:05 PST 72.8 22
    12-17-2011 14:10 PST 74.3 20
    12-17-2011 14:15 PST 75.6 19
    12-17-2011 14:20 PST 74 20
    12-17-2011 14:25 PST 72.3 23
    12-17-2011 14:30 PST 72.2 23

  31. Brad says:

    The only thing more sure than a mild winter this year is Mark patting himself on the back for a forecast that’s more than half right! pa-dum-pum.

    I’m here all winter folks…

  32. Carrie says:

    We have about a half inch of snow here in Washougal. I’m not sure when it started as there was nothing at dinner time and even saw a few patches of blue sky late afternoon. Happened to look outside a few minutes ago and saw white. It’s still snowing and the flakes are small. Not sure the temp as I don’t feel like going out to find out but it feels colder than it has in a while (scientific I know). We’re at 1400.’

  33. Josh in Sherwood says:

    00z NAM says nothing to look at here. Maybe if we go to the highest point in the coast range on Saturday we can watch our system give us the finger as it heads SE.

  34. David C says:

    I hope I didn’t come across as using “busts” as bad forecasting. I only meant that with our unique situation, (ocean trajectory, timing, cold/dry, wet/warm, etc), that it’s just sometimes depressing that we get so, so close sometimes! But that usually only affects us folks who love weather in general. Snow, wind, super cells, etc. I’m still a student of the models, but even I can see when a potential source of moisture either dematerializes or goes too far East/west. I’m probably somewhat weird in my love of snow (not the only one, I know!). But staring at the lights looking for flakes drives my wife crazy! There’s nothing prettier in my mind than a fresh coating of pure, beautiful, fresh snow. It magically changes the whole world as we know it. We still have a chance for Sat, and winter isn’t over!!

  35. runrain says:

    It was 34 and raining here a bit ago. Now, the rain has stopped, the sky is clearing, no wind and very wet streets. The temp is falling and I’ve already noted ice on cars during my walk. If it stays clear we could be looking at an ice rink out there. Drive CAREFULLY, everyone. Too many people rip around on the streets when conditions warrant otherwise.

  36. PDX Weather Nut says:

    More interesting Oregon snowfall info: http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/pqr/paststorms/snow.php

  37. David B. says:

    Who posted that graph of the excitement here as a big snow was forecast, the forecast held for a while, generous accumulations were predicted, then the whole thing went bust? Sounds like it’s time for a repost!

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      That would the wishcasting graph! I don’t recall using the phrase “generous accumulations” in reference to the Portland area in a long time! Sad…

    • In fact there were no forecasts of generous accumulations or a “big” snow storm. That’s just what some people were wishing for. So it wasn’t a bust at all. Mark’s forecast (and others) was right on the money. Go look back on the graphs that he posted.

    • David B. says:

      True, but the graph I’m thinking of mentions them (well, it quantifies accumulations, but they’re generous).

    • David C says:

      Mark is usually right on the money, and I’ve never seen him wish cast on an actual forecast. I’ll bet, though, like many of us, that he does so unofficially!

  38. Until Mid-February we have a shot. I am not giving up hope on a good 1-2″ of snow on the valley floor…lol. But chances are becoming slim with each passing day.

    • Chris s says:

      No Brian, we have a shot at a snowfall thru most of march, at least down here in the salem area. But what we don’t have a chance of past about mid feb is a situation where we see sub freezing highs for several days and snow. I think some of the new people in here are getting upset when people say winter is over because most of us think that in order for it to qualify as winter, we need a arctic outbreak and snow, which at the moment just isn’t in the foreseable future.

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      I think most of the weather geeks here would consider a “real winter event” to be a good snow storm, high temps near/below freezing, or an ice storm. A cold blast would work too. But the Trace-2″ of wet morning snow with a high of 40-50 in the afternoon under partly cloudy skies (what we can get after mid-February) doesn’t do it for many of us.
      Now I fully realize you had one event last March 21st with the heavy snow from Salem to Eugene and highs only slightly above freezing. That was neat, but the chance of that occurring again in the next 10 years is very small.

    • Yeah, I understand that. I was talking about most everyone under a blanket of snow. I am not into all the models or numbers. However, when I first moved up here it snowed pretty good in APRIL around 1999. And before the big 2008 event, it snowed in April here in Keizer pretty good, have the pics as proof. We get a good layer of snow once every year here in Keizer. Most people ignore us Keizer folks…lol. And where I live, in the big snow event in 2008, I measured 9″ of new snow the last day when it snowed from 7am til 4pm straight! I don’t complain. I just enjoy it when it occurs. :p

    • Yeah that was neat alright. I lost two good sized shore pine trees in that weird snow storm. It was really, really weird watching snow fall for two days during spring break. Did I mention how weird that was?! 9-1/2 inches of very wet ,heavy snow on the morning of March 22nd. Weird.

    • Yeah, the previous day and night we had freezing rain in 2008, it was a Sunday. I didn’t have to go to work, but my wife is a nurse and she can’t miss, like most healthcare workers can’t. So I got my Frontier warming up, and the wife comes out telling me that the neighbors tree collapsed over our back cedar fence. Long story short, it collapsed perfectly, along all the top rails and posts! I got the neighbor to help me chainsaw it off when I got back from taking her to work…lol! That was a crazy Monday in 2008. It sure would be cool to get another one of those. Winter 2004 wasn’t bad either for us in Keizer. Got like 6″ of snow in that event.

  39. Sifton says:

    I’ll take a lil winter sunshine!! Only 50 or so days left………

  40. pappoose in scappoose says:

    I really like brief dustings! (or even not so brief dustings)

  41. David C says:

    I know this has been said before, but why are potentially exciting forecasts usually busts, while boring ridges and inversions almost always right? That said, I know the real answer, but still…

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      It might be perception; would anyone know or care if a big ridge was forecast in winter and it didn’t happen? So we just don’t remember those times. And one could argue that lots of big ridges don’t show up when we want them April-July.

    • Austin_east vancouver says:

      i remember the last ridge we had…….not lol

    • EY (Oak Grove) says:

      I think Mark said it wonderfully. But it may be just a bit more than that…

      Potentially damaging events, such as snow/ice/windstorms tend to get a lot of media coverage and for good reason; they’re important to cover. Getting a scoop on an event before it happens is important and, often, it seems like the news stations around here are calling wolf for no reason. But I’ve seen people unload into the mets for not calling a storm and it happening.

      Basically, I think it’s because most people don’t notice the weather unless it’s something out of the norm… Especially during winter.

    • Mr. Donut says:

      I know ridging is easier – a large scale phenomenon – whereas snow is often dictated by very localized conditions, but show me a past case where a ridging forecast has blown apart as dramatically as the “all models locked-in” snowstorm of Jan 2011 and I will be quite surprised.

    • Alan says:

      True. Media coverage of potentially exciting or dangerous weather events is important…but looking for a snowflake in the grass off the Sylvan Hill isn’t one of them. It’s scary to think what the media will do if we ever get sticking snow at sea level! I suppose 24/7 coverage?

    • Chris s says:

      @ Alan, I have to assume you are new to the area, as one need not look any further back than December 2008, it pretty much was 24/7

    • Alan says:

      Hi Chris…No, I’m not new to the area. Lived here all my life. It’s just irritating when they say traffic is moving pretty good when there’s NOT a snowflake to be seen! You’re right about 2008. I’d take a repeat of that anyday and it’s ok for 24/7 coverage then…as long as we get 12″ of snow!

  42. DCZ (Hillsboro) says:

    Thanks for the update Mark!

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