Is It Time For It To Snow This Winter?

I show this chart every time I visit a school:


It shows the past 14 winter’s worth of snow in Portland.  Specifically at the NWS forecast office out in Parkrose.  We all know it didn’t snow last winter (officially) of course.  But often I’ll ask kids to point out anything interesting they see.  Generally they point out two things.

1.  Sometimes it snows a whole bunch in one winter here in Portland

2. There seems to be a pattern, with a heavy snowfall once every 5 years.

I think the first assumption is valid…every once in a while we get a “snowy” winter.  Sometimes that’s just one storm or two.  Other times it’s a collection of smaller snowfall events.

As for the 2nd?  We’ve seen 4 winters with little/no snowfall here in Portland, is it time for THE BIG ONE?  The short answer is that this is too small of a sample.  Take a look at a chart going back another 14 years, that’s 28 winter’s worth of snowfall totals:


The “pattern” isn’t really a pattern is it?  There is one error in the chart.  98-99 should read 2″, not zero.  So we went 5 winters with little/no snowfall before the 2004 snowstorm (January).  But then before that time it was a real mish-mash of snowfall.  An occasional ZERO year followed by varying amounts.  The last time we had 4 years with such a low total (little or nothing like the early 2000s) was from 73-77.  During that 4 winter stretch only 1″ fell in Portland!  That was the first time in Portland’s history.

So is it going to snow this winter?  Statistically the odds would favor it, although if you add one more ZERO to the chart above for this coming winter, it would not be unprecedented.  In fact if nothing fell for the next 3 winters, it would only match that spell in the 1970s.  Let’s hope that’s not the case!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

73 Responses to Is It Time For It To Snow This Winter?

  1. Rob - Southeast Portland says:

    00z GFS tonight features something not seen on the maps since last Winter. The first “fun” model run of Fall 2013 has arrived! Yes, it’s out in la-la land with arctic air dropping south into Idaho/Montana.

    I will say it would take next to nothing to tweak the 500mb pattern with the ridge 5 degrees further west and drop the brunt of the cold air down over us. Seriously that’s not too unrealistic. It is literally a matter of 100miles of the trough digging bit more south-southwesterly and on a large scale that is literally the most minor adjustment needed.

    As it is, this run if there is any moisture it MIGHT be cold enough for snow around Bellingham to central-eastern Washington. Dare I even say Seattle could stand a chance? Maybe. 850mb thickness down to 127-128dm Puget Sound-Seattle. 850mb temps -9c Bellingham, Thickness 529. -12c Spokane-Omak. This IS October, right?

    It’s crazy to see that showing up so early. An outlier? maybe. Consensus though seems to be to build an offshore ridge and important to note: The pattern starts to develop around day 7-8(somewhat believable range) Question is, will there be any ensemble support tonight and does the next run remove this fantasy land idea?

    • Manny says:

      The 00Z GFS is the most accurate run of GFS and last month we had a system we never seen before ever in September so I’d say I wont be surprised if we see a snowstorm in the last half of this month. This is a great sign that models show arctic air this soon, it’s going to be a historic cold and snowy season here in Portland, IMO breaking 08/09’s 24 inches.

    • Rob - Southeast Portland says:

      00z GFS Ensembles say, “Nope”
      “No Cold for you”

      Ensembles bring things back to reality. Who didn’t expect that lol

  2. Manny says:

    The 00z gfs has an arctic front with tons of moisture dropping south towards us. As of now it gives vancouver bc a major snowstorm. Looks like this arctic air is headed straight down and the flow is perfect north to south. This is would be sticking down down to sea level. Just how much south it goes will be key but I’m exicited!

    • WEATHERDAN says:

      In 1984 we had a somewhat similar October. Only it was a little cooler and wetter. Anyway on the 31st Salem had a very chilly high of 50 degrees. However Bellingham had snow and a high of just 32 degrees. Snow has fallen in Salem in October as recently as 2003 when we had a trace. But that was at the very tail end of the month. I find the chance for lowland snow this early in the month to be highly unlikely. I would never say never but very unlikely.

  3. paulbeugene says:

    00zGFS has arctic front to at least Puget Sound Oct 22. -9C 850mb temps S of Bellingham. Time to start riding the Hayabusa model express.

    • Punxsutawney aka HIOPHIL in Hillsboro says:

      12Euro at hour 240 was kind of hinting at an Omega block forming just offshore. Maybe that’s what the GFS is picking up on?

  4. Lurkyloo says:

    YES. IT IS TIME FOR SNOW THIS WINTER. (I put it in caps just so it’ll be sure to happen.)

  5. Andrew (Near Silver Falls 1600') says:

    57/37 up here today with mostly cloudy skies most of the day.

  6. BoringOregon says:

    Any chance of a east wind event up on vista house!?!?

  7. Snow Maniac 13-14 says:

    On a scale from 1-10, what would you think the likelihood would be that we will get as much snow as 08/09, or get a snow storm that will drop 5 inches?

    • marinersfan85 says:

      08/09 was a once in a lifetime event. Kind of like the storm we had a couple weeks ago. Overall, that winter was warmer than normal with just the one snow event in December.

    • marinersfan85 says:

      I should say that the storm a couple weeks ago was a once in a lifetime event for September.

    • Andrew (Near Silver Falls 1600') says:

      I would say that December 2008 was a once in a lifetime December snow event. If you are under the age of 40, you will likely see a more significant winter weather event in your lifetime in my opinion. Probably in January, we are way overdue in that month.

    • Andrew (Near Silver Falls 1600') says:

      The coldest winter of the past 20 years in the PNW was 2007-08.

      Overall the winter of 2008-09 was not warmer than normal. December and February were below normal. January was almost exactly normal.

    • marinersfan85 says:

      For some reason I remember it being a warmer winter in 08/09. But because I can, I’m gonna send Mark 35 emails about how upset I am at you for disagreeing with me.

    • schmit44 says:

      You don’t wanna do that mariner fan unless you are looking to get electronically punched in the face.

    • ocpaul says:

      Check out the archives on the right. On Dec 2, 2008 Mark talked about how the nightly low,50, was higher than the average high.
      And then you know what happened. (unfortunately, most of the Dec 2008 posts were lost when the blog went to WordPress)

    • Punxsutawney aka HIOPHIL in Hillsboro says:

      I think what may have Marinersfan thinking 2008 was warm is that if you take out those three weeks starting mid December the winter would have been very dull and ridgy. I had my heat off the second half of Nov ’08 into the first week or so of December.

      Ridges overhead here in late fall/winter usually produce inversions which will pull the average temps down in the valley, but it’s “Fake Cold” so to speak. Go into the Coast Range or say Govt’ Camp and it may be low 60’s.

      Here are the PDX departures from mean temp for Nov-March that winter.

      Nov +3.4
      Dec -2.7
      Jan +.1
      Feb -1.7
      Mar -1.9*

      *March ’09 was wet, cold, and active and the rest of spring was pretty wet.

    • W7ENK says:

      I think what Snow Maniac is asking for pertains to this winter? That being the case (if so), then I would say:

      On a scale from 1-10, the likelihood that we get as much snow as 08/09 in 2013/14 = 0.01315789

      On a scale from 1-10, the likelihood that we get a snow storm that will drop 5 inches (I’m assuming at PDX) in 2013/14 = 7

  8. WEATHERDAN says:

    And now for your pleasure ladies and gentleman the Accuweather 2013-2014 winter forecast ha!

    US Winter Forecast: Snow to Bury Rockies; Slow Onset in East
    Jillian MacMath
    By Jillian MacMath, Staff Writer
    October 10, 2013; 12:56 PM
    More Sharing ServicesShare | Share on facebook Share on twitter Share on linkedin

    Though summerlike temperatures kicked off fall in some parts of the United States, winter — with its cold and snow — is quickly following. The season will get off to a slow start in the Northeast with only occasional shots of cold early on. The northern Plains and the Rockies, however, will be bitterly cold at times and buried in snow.

    With the East as an exception, most ski resorts country-wide should not have a problem getting up-and-running this year. This season’s precipitation may even bring drought relief to California, replenishing reservoirs and easing water shortages.

    A breakdown of the 2013-2014 Winter Forecast can be found below.

    @SOOI500 tweeted: “Have you seen this US Winter Forecast? WOW could be a fun winter!”

    Additional Relevant Tweets and Social Media Reaction

    JUMP TO: East to Remain Mild Until Latter Half of Season| Southeast, Tennessee Valley, Gulf Coast to Rival Warmth Records | Northern Plains, Upper Midwest: Snowy With Blasts of Extreme Cold | Northwest, Rockies: Abundant Snow, Wild Temperature Contrasts | West: Reservoirs to Catch Up, Drought Relief on Horizon

    East to Remain Mild Until Latter Half of Season

    Winter weather lovers will have to be patient this year, as the start of the season in the East certainly won’t pack a punch in terms of cold or snowfall. Winter will begin mildly, with a long duration of above-normal temperatures. One snow system and some chilly air could come at times during November, however.

    Temperatures will fall in the latter part of the season, likely the beginning of January, allowing snow to fall along the I-95 corridor.

    Philadelphia, which received only 8 inches of snow last year, will likely get higher amounts, but other areas from New York City to Boston should not expect to beat last year’s totals. Overall, however, winter sports enthusiasts have a shot at an average season.

    Skiers and snowboarders head to the slopes at Gunstock Ski area as the first winter snowstorm arrives Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012 in Gilford, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

    “It’s not going to be a complete [snow] drought season coming up, but I think they’ll have to wait until probably late in the season to get their best chances of the higher snow amounts,” Expert Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok said.

    Early in the season, the storm track will not favor coastal areas, but areas farther north, including Burlington, Vt., and areas north of Albany should have a strong chance at a white winter.

    “The farther south you go, it is going to more likely be mid- to late season that you may have an opportunity to see some snow, which is typical,” Pastelok said.

    Southeast, Tennessee Valley, Gulf Coast to Rival Warmth Records

    The winter season will begin with well above-normal temperatures for the Southeast, Tennessee Valley and Gulf Coast areas.

    December could yield daily record-breaking warmth for the Tennessee Valley, where monthly temperatures departures could average as much as 4-6 degrees above normal.

    RELATED: Winter Weather Center
    Forecast Temperature Maps Severe Weather Center

    With the warmth will come a severe weather threat for the central and western Gulf Coast. A few heavy rain events could lead to flooding in December and February, ultimately resulting in above-normal precipitation for the area.

    From Paducah, Ky.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Little Rock, Ark.; to Dallas could be impacted by some snow and ice events.

    Northern Plains, Upper Midwest: Snowy With Blasts of Extreme Cold

    Those living in the northern Plains and Upper Midwest should plan for plenty of days requiring snow boots and shovels, as several strong systems are expected to unleash above-normal snow totals.

    Across the Ohio Valley, Midwest extending toward the central Plains, a wintery mix will accompany an active storm track.

    Farther north, across parts of the northern Plains and Upper Midwest, snow will be favored over rain, resulting in higher snow totals in December into January.

    Frequent arctic blasts will take aim at the Dakotas and Minnesota late in the season, leading to some extreme cold at times.

    In late December and into January, the Midwest may be in an ideal position for a big storm. Conditions could align to bring Chicago a winter storm in time for the holidays.

    Des Moines, Minneapolis, Omaha and just northwest of Kansas City can each expect above-normal snowfall this season.

    Northwest, Rockies: Abundant Snow, Wild Temperature Contrasts

    The highlight of the Northwest this year is frequent precipitation, in the form of rain and snow.

    “A lot of it will be due to the change in water temperatures that is taking place over the northeastern Pacific; they’re much warmer,” Pastelok said.

    Areas not shaded will experience near-normal snow totals for the 2013-2014 season.

    This allows for an active jet stream farther south that will bring moisture in multiple-week periods throughout the winter season.

    The area will also endure significant temperature contrasts. Coastal areas will average slightly above normal, while parts of Montana and Wyoming fall well below normal.

    “February can be a wild month, temperature-wise. There is a chance for a strong, arctic surge of cold air, especially for the northern Rockies,” Pastelok said.

    Additionally, the Southwest could warm up and milder weather will spread north to western Oregon and Washington.

    West: Reservoirs to Catch Up, Drought Relief on Horizon

    From December through January, California will enter a period of heavy precipitation resulting in much-needed relief from the extreme drought.

    For more than two years, parts of the state have endured moderate to extreme drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

    “I think this can definitely alleviate some drought issues. I think we’re going to fill those reservoirs up a little bit,” Pastelok said.

    The season also brings hope to resorts across the state which have not received normal snowfall amounts in the past two seasons.

    • W7ENK says:

      “A lot of it will be due to the change in water temperatures that is taking place over the northeastern Pacific; they’re much warmer,” Pastelok said.

      Huh??? o_O

    • W7ENK says:

      BTW, a simple link to the website this text came from would have been adequate. This was extremely difficult to read because it references graphics that have gone missing from your copy/paste job.

      At any rate, they make it sound as though El Niño is already in full swing. I don’t think whoever wrote this — or this Petowsnak guy they interviewed — has any semblance of a clue about what’s going on out here in the wild, wild West…

      Pure make-it-up-as-you-go conjecture.

    • ocpaul says:

      Erik I am convinced that Accuweather and TWC think the year is 1804. Lewis and Clark are about to discover ‘something’ over here.

    • I would have to agree with Erik. If you look at the NOAA Enso site and scroll down to the page that shows sea surface temp. change, you’ll see that the eastern pacific has been getting colder in the last four weeks.
      They are forecasting a turn to a warmer (still neutral) equatorial pacific but not the northeast pacific. Where does “inaccuweather” get their info? The Farmer’s almanac?!

    • marinersfan85 says:

      All the predictions I’ve read has gone every way possible. There isn’t any one way that’s trending. So going off anyone’s forecast is subject to let down. And this is accuweather here we’re talking about. So anything they say is null and void. Just expect the worst and hope for the best.

  9. WEATHERDAN says:

    Just an observation. I’m not saying there is any science behind it but it seems in the years with a lot of ridging in October we tend to have more of an amplified winter pattern. When we get more of a westerly or Southwesterly flow in October that seems to be what we get more of during the Winter. I have done no research on this matter but just from memory only this seems to be so. Also many of the cold and snowy winters didn’t seem to have much in the way of winter weather until after Thanksgiving. In 1968 our first wet snow didn’t happen until November 30th. Our first frost wasn’t until October 30th. In 1978 it wasn’t until a week before thanksgiving we started to get into more of a Winter pattern. And going back and reading blogs on this site in early December 2008 everybody was blogging on just how warm a Fall it was. I guess my two points are this 1.We may repeat may be in a pattern conducive to cold weather later this Fall and into Winter. And 2.When it does turn cold if it turns cold it most likely won’t be until after Thanksgiving. So if we have a mainly dry and mild Fall don’t despair. After all The Dodgers were 30-42 almost halfway into this past season and will open play tomorrow in the NLCS. Go big blue.

    • WeatherDan, where are you located? I only ask because “first frost wasn’t until October 30th” would not be considered late for those of us in the PDX and valleys. I generally figure our first frost, wide spread, isn’t normally until mid November. We have had some cold end of Octobers and some early frosts just not generally from my memory. I could be way off though.

    • Andrew (Near Silver Falls 1600') says:

      He lives in Salem. Average first frost in Salem is around October 20th.

  10. about those alarmists, front page of CNN…look at this AGW article…that’s a very extreme solution, one that I do NOT agree with…

    • gidrons says:

      The Oregonian picked up the story too. Journalism at its finest. These ridiculous doomsday claims are well beyond what most AGW proponents argue. I hope Mark slaps someone at the station if they try to run this story.

      And of course the study’s authors write it “will require a bigger commitment from developed countries to decrease their emissions, but will also require more extensive funding of social and conservation programmes in developing countries”

    • ocpaul says:

      And, ironically, during a period of record high carbon emissions,
      world temps have been flat to slightly cooler. The IPCC didn’t know how to explain it. Perhaps it was the deep ocean cooling phenomena, (little is known about it). It was contrary to their predictions. ” But…AGW is real and we need to act.” Once again, observation trumps long range forecasting, as it should.

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      We should know in 50-100 years, otherwise I’m not too worried about it right now.

  11. Sandi (Wilsonville) says:

    I’m curious about any patterns for freezing rain… and do these correspond to years with more/less snow?

  12. MasterNate says:

    I would would equal some beautiful fall weather.

  13. Paul D says:

    Bring on a BIG storm!! Thoroughly enjoyed 08-09 – time for a repeat!

  14. Garron near Washington Square says:

    The likelihood that any given winter will be a snowy one around Portland is harder to define than when an actual snow event “might” take place. The PDF I refer to gives you the best window or opportunity for winter events in PDX.

    The better chances roughly begin around Dec. 5th and pickup in frequency around the 20th. They continue through the month of March, but seem to dramatically fall off in frequency just after Feb. 14th.

  15. W7ENK says:

    We couldn’t possibly go 5 winters in a row without legitimate snow, could we? COULD WE?!?

  16. EY (Oak Grove) says:

    Looking back at the snowfall records at PDX it’s kinda interesting…

    2002/2003 to 2011/2012: Avg. 4.91″
    1992/1993 to 2001/2002: Avg. 4.23″
    1982/1983 to 1991/1992: Avg. 3.78″
    1972/1973 to 1981/1982: Avg. 3.91″
    1962/1963 to 1971/1972: Avg. 7.68″
    1952/1953 to 1961/1962: Avg. 7.66″
    1942/1943 to 1951/1952: Avg. 11.4″

    These are all 10 year averages for snowfall and it does show a steady decline down overall, but over the last 20 years we’ve ticked up snowfall. I was curious… So I decided to take out the biggest snow year out of each 10 year period then find the average sans the snowiest year…

    2002/2003 to 2011/2012: Avg. 2.77″
    1992/1993 to 2001/2002: Avg. 3.13″
    1982/1983 to 1991/1992: Avg. 3.00″
    1972/1973 to 1981/1982: Avg. 2.97″
    1962/1963 to 1971/1972: Avg. 4.76″
    1952/1953 to 1961/1962: Avg. 6.02″
    1942/1943 to 1951/1952: Avg. 7.72″

    Shocked me to see how much of a difference one year can make. Without the 44.5″ of snow that fell during 1949/1950, the average drops quite a bit and without the amazing 24.2″ snowfall in 2008/2009 the average is nearly cut in half.

    When it comes to snow and Portland, it just seems insanely random. It’s even worse because of the microclimates… Forest Grove and spots way out west seem to get more snow from what I can tell… Same with Troutdale area. You can have a few inches of snow a mile or two from your home and you’ll see nothing or a trace. The reverse can happen, too.

    It does seem like we should see a decent year this year (6″+) but that’s like saying we’re “owed” it, because we’re not. I’ll be happy as long as we get snowy situations in WINTER and not in SPRING. Just seems like a wasted opportunity.

  17. archangelmichael2 says:

    Had a low of 41F before Mr Fog crept in most of the night though he wasn’t too mean. Beautiful fall day with no gunk in the air from farmers burning.

    High of 58F under sunny sunny skies! Ocean layer clouds from the NW during the first half but by 1pm it was totally clear for the remainder of the day.

    Last year most of the fall except a week or two was either hazy or cloudy until November leading to a dull season for fall colors.

    November a few big rain events though Northern California got the brunt of it with some rainfall matching the New Years flood of 97 but lack of a snow pack diverted serious flooding there.

    We had mostly *weak* storm fronts until the mid December storm that almost brought 80mph winds but most places barely reached 50mph in low spots but still exciting non the less.

  18. schmit44 says:

    10/9/2013 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:69 at BROOKINGS( 79 ft)
    Low: 50 at MT. YONCALLA(1822 ft)

    High:30 at CW6028 Pine Mtn(6296 ft)
    Low: 22 at Rim (7050 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 30 degrees
    Tillamook (66/36 ) (63 ft )
    DW5789 Eagle Poi (64/34) (1463 ft)

    Heaviest Rainfall:
    0.28″ at TUPPER(4260ft)
    0.23″ at MOON HILL(6100ft)
    0.23″ at BRER RABBIT(5719ft)
    0.22″ at KEENEY TWO(5120ft)
    0.22″ at Mount Hood Meado(5249ft)
    0.22″ at SLIDE MOUNTAIN(5589ft)

  19. paulbeugene says:

    Overall, some rather amplified patterns being suggested by models as we go through next couple weeks of October, with ridging over or just offshore of west coast. Anywhere from Montana to Great Lakes at risk of a quick hitting early season minor arctic intrusion sometime in second week.

    Does not look like my chain saw is going to be needed in the next 14 days.

  20. Maybe if we get lots of ridging in October, as per the 00z GFS, then come November & December we’ll be ready to shift into lots of hardcore storm action!

  21. marinersfan85 says:

    Hopefully the low’s initialize in the RIGHT place all winter long.

  22. Interesting the difference in snowfall between locations in the Willamette Valley. Historically Eugene, Salem, and Portland have a fairly similar average for snowfall. However the patterns that produce snowfall for each location can vary. Obviously SLE and EUG don’t benefit from the Gorge influence.

    PDX had more snow that SLE in 08-09, though SLE doesn’t keep official snowfall stats, I can tell you they had around 15″ or so, Eugene had even less, maybe about 5″.

    However in 92-93′ when PDX had an impressive 14″, SLE had an astounding 32″ of snow for the season.

    Eugene did well in 2011-12′ in most part to the 7.5″ of snow they got in late March, they also had a nice snow event in January 2008, a winter PDX ended up with 0″.

    Just a few random snow observations from a historical weather junkie.

    • archangelmichael2 says:

      Keep em coming! Seriously I like to read reports that are not just Portland biased.

    • David B. says:

      In January 2011 most of Western Washington had a significant snow-into-ice event, with some areas getting buried with 2+ feet. In the winter of 92/93, I seem to remember Seattle getting almost nothing when a big storm buried Portland.

    • Andrew (Near Silver Falls 1600') says:

      David, you are probably referring to February 19, 1993.

      Portland received about 6″ of snow with that event. Salem got 12″ and Eugene picked up about 6″ as well.

    • Ellen Wallace says:

      I have heard the pattern for winter will be similar to the early-mid-1950’s….Is there anything to this? Good amount of snow in the charts if so. Our lowest up here in Kelso area was 35* about a week ago…

  23. Throw out the couple outlier heavier snow years, and you’re looking at 2-3″ per year average, if that…

    Jives with my childhood memories in the ‘couv in the 70’s and 80’s, where everyone would freak out over 1″ snow, and school closure was exceptional. We spent most winter weekends up at govt camp, so we got our snow fix up there. Ah, memories…

    • Joshua in Lake Oswego says:

      Yea, if it was a month ago.

    • MasterNate says:

      I would rather have it now. Not much of an extreme heat lover. Give me cool, crisp sunny days anytime. Add in some beautiful fall colors and that is a perfect day.

  24. I’m hoping for at least 30-40″ up here at 1600′ this winter.

    My first winter here in 2011-12 we had 98.5″

    Last winter we had only 16.5″

    Nice day today, 2nd freeze of the season. 51/32.

  25. orwxguy says:

    Well, I’ve heard there is some sort of meeting that takes place at OMSI at the end of October (this year it is Saturday, October 26) where a few weather prognosticators get together and give their best guess as to what will actually happen this coming winter. In fact, I was at that meeting last year and a couple years before that. It is a fun time to hear what people think and how they come up with their “best guess.” Mark always does a great job with his “here’s what happened this past year.” Come early for a good seat up front as the place always packs out… Maybe we’ll even get to hear Pete Parsons and his PWODT (Pete’s Way of Doing Things) forecast… always a hit!!

  26. Darlene in Boring says:

    I think so! 🙂

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