Friday Night Quick Post: Wetter 7 Day Forecast

January 30, 2015

I’ve been sick the past 2 days, and just worked a scheduled half day today.  I squeezed in a mountain bike ride with my son out in Brightwood midday and it was NICE!  Mid-upper 50s and sunny on January 30th is a pretty good deal.  That plus mainly dry ground was a bonus.  I was surprised the parking lot was almost full on a Friday at 1pm when we left.

Just a few thoughts since it’s 10:40pm…

Mild weather continues through the foreseeable future.  00z GEM and GFS ensemble 500mb height charts still keep ridging near/over us through Valentine’s Weekend.  These are maps for Valentine’s Day itself:

gem gfs

4 days ago it looked like snow levels could be reliably in the 4-5,000′ range for the first few days of this coming week.  At that point I said we could see 8-15″ on the higher ski slopes.  That’s looking unlikely now…


Too bad, we’re down to 14% of normal snowpack on Mt. Hood.  The ridging is looking flatter later next week though, which allows some wet storms to move through.  Note the GFS meteogram for Salem (Portland’s meteogram picks up too much SW Washington Cascades precip):


Looks like a soaker next week.  Notice the new 00z ECMWF is a real wet too ending next Sunday morning


That’s all, enjoy the sunshine Saturday (away from the fog)

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Deadest Winter in 10 Years; Ridging Sticks Around At Least 2 More Weeks

January 29, 2015

It’s looking more and more like the Winter of 2014-2015 is going to be our once in a decade dud.

So far we’ve seen two minor/moderate wind storms (late October and mid December), some minor flooding (early January), and one unusually early blast of cold air (mid November).  That’s it.  No arctic blasts, no region-wide major wind storm, no snow in the western lowlands, and no real flooding.  That’s why I call it a dud.

Early this week models were pointing (especially the ECMWF) at some decent snow on Mt. Hood early next week.  They’ve gradually trended a bit warmer and now it appears little or no snow falls at Government Camp, or even up at 5,000′ in the next week or longer.

The same general weather pattern with unusually warm weather continues into at least the first half of February.  Last year at this time we could see the big change ahead on our models with a blast of cold air and then much wetter weather beyond.  Right now there is no sign of a big change like last year, at least in the next two weeks or so, which takes us into mid February.

Actually a good chunk of these past 3 winters have been a disappointment for weather geeks and skiers/snowboarders .  We’ve seen one episode after another of upper-level ridging over/near the West Coast in 2012-13, 2013-14, and now in 2014-15.

Ski conditions are definitely as bad as 2004-2005 now.  In the next 10 days it looks like the snow level only briefly gets as low as Government Camp next Monday night through Wednesday morning.   But it’ll be drying out then.  After that only occasional warm storms with only rain at Gov’y.  Right now Meadows has 30″ on the ground, and Timberline 41″.  Of course there is less snow at the lower parts of those resorts and more on the higher parts.  Yes, I’m fully aware that on the runs there is still plenty of snow for skiing and if you want to have fun you can still do that.   But Heather Canyon hasn’t opened this winter at Meadows, and HR Meadows terrain must not have enough snow for skiing since it hasn’t been used for a few weeks.  The Flood Express at Timberline hasn’t operated for quite a while from what I have seen too, it drops down to below 5,000′.    There is less snow on the ground than at the beginning of the month.  Wow, the average of the western Cascade reporting stations is below 20% of normal!


Based on forecast models, I don’t see any closed ski lifts at resorts opening in the next 7-14 days.  And it’s possible snow conditions could be a little worse 10 days from now.


Because the warm upper-level high pressure ridging along the West Coast is going to stick around in one form or another for ANOTHER 2+ weeks.    Take a look at the ECMWF monthly run from last night,  each map is a one week average of 500mb heights.  Notice the positive anomaly along the West Coast the entire month of February, although it’s quite a bit weaker in the 2nd half of the month.





That last map takes us to the first day of March.

The GFS model’s 10 day snowfall forecast:  gfs_10daysnow

Pretty much nothing on Mt. Hood, with an episode or two of warm rain again.  This is the 10 day total precipitation forecast.


On the plus side, the unusually mild weather we’ve seen in January will likely continue into early February; great for getting outdoors.  The average high temp moves into the lower 50s through the 1st half of February, so temps well into the 50s will become more common the next couple of weeks.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

ECMWF Weekly Maps

January 26, 2015

7pm Monday…

Another run of the ECMWF out to a month.  4 maps, one for each of the next 4 weeks showing average 500mb heights and anomaly.

Week 1:  We already know what it’s going to show, ridging in general this week and then a stronger ridge this weekend.  No surprise.  This finishes off January…geez, what a dull month.


Week 2:  Ridge is pushed to the east a bit.  What you don’t see is a wetter pattern during this period.  Several slightly cooler troughs/weather systems move through.  The ECMWF is actually pretty wet during this period and the operational shows cold enough temps around the 2nd-4th for mountain snow.  This could be helpful for Timberline and Meadows, but probably not enough snow low enough to get the other ski areas re-opened.


Week 3:  Wow, ridge pops back over us.  The operational run had a mammoth upper-level high right over us for Valentine’s weekend, just like what we went through this weekend.


Week 4:  Ridging is there, but a little weaker.  Still, the pattern is amazingly persistent.  Notice the deep trough way out in the Pacific doesn’t go anywhere in the entire month!  This takes us to within a week of March.  The operational run (not the ensemble average) had a shot of cold air right around the 16th-17th.  It’s interesting that the operational run one week ago showed something similar at the same time.


The takeaway thoughts are the same as the last run on Thursday and last Monday.

  • Milder than normal weather is going to continue through at least the first half of February
  • There isn’t going to be a sudden swing to cold & wet this year like early last February
  • But we could get some decent rain and mountain snow NEXT week.
  • No sign of lowland cold and/or snow through the first half of February either.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Record Warm Temps: Cascades and (maybe) Coast This Weekend

January 23, 2015

Models have been advertising an incredibly warm airmass (for January) for this weekend and early next week over the Pacific Northwest.  It’s a strong upper-level ridge building right over the top of us.  This is what I expect at the Coast and in the Cascades for the weekend:



Hard to believe isn’t it?

The ECMWF model is forecasting 850mb temps (around 5,000′ elevation) around +17 to +18 deg C over the northern Willamette Valley Sunday afternoon/evening.  The warmest ever recorded was during the big Gorge windstorm around January 18, 2009.  During that mega-inversion, the temperature reached the January record +18.8 degrees over Salem during the balloon sounding.  That day the temperature was around 70 degrees at 3,000′ (the free-air atmosphere temp!) while temps were in the 30s/40s at the surface in the valley.  By the way, a +18 May-August would give us a high temp near 90 in Portland!  So you can see what effect the long nights, weak winter sun, and cold land has on that.

Forecasting high temps at the Coast and above 1,500′ is somewhat easy in this pattern.  The REALLY tough forecast is in the lowest elevations.  We have pretty much no wind movement in our area through Monday.  The east wind has died to just about nothing this evening and we only get a light southerly drift up the valley the next 12 hours, then it goes calm.

I’m forecasting 58, 53, & 50 for high temps the next 3 days at PDX.  Why would temps make a big jump tomorrow and then a big drop even when it’s warming dramatically above?   My theory is that the mid-level clouds over us tonight will hold through the night.  All models show much of the cloud cover shifting north during the day tomorrow for partly cloudy conditions.  I think the increased sunshine plus the light southerly drift should allow us to rise well into the 50s.

The issue comes tomorrow night.  I’m assuming skies are mainly clear Saturday night.  We have a very moist airmass, no wind, and dewpoints near 50 degrees.  That says widespread fog overnight and into Sunday morning.  With no wind to bring in drier air to clear us out, plus incredibly warm temps above putting a “lid” on the cool air, I think it’s likely we’re stuck in low clouds and/or fog much of Sunday.  Probably Monday and maybe Tuesday as well.  If this actually occurs, we’ll probably be even cooler than my high temp forecast.

The warmest January temp on record at Government Camp is 65.  We’ll be close on Sunday.  In 1968 when we hit that temperature it was 15.3 degrees over Salem on the sounding.

The screaming message here is:  IF YOU WANT SUNSHINE AND WARM TEMPS SUNDAY & MONDAY, HEAD ABOVE 1,000-1,500′

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Snowpack & Skiing Update: Looking Even Worse

January 22, 2015


We haven’t had a decent snowstorm in the Cascades in a month!

Only 20-25% of the normal snowpack for January 22nd is on the ground right now.  That means about 80% of a typical snowpack is missing!  The numbers above are Snow Water Equivalent…the amount of water in the snow that’s sitting on the ground.  If you thought it was bad on January 1st, it’s even worse now.  The numbers have dropped 10% from 2 weeks ago.

Now take a look at the numbers for water-year precipitation (wet season precipitation).  precip It’s actually ABOVE NORMAL across most of the state!  So what’s going on?  These two maps tell us what you probably already suspected, most of the significant precipitation this winter has been falling from storms that are much warmer than normal.  It happened just before Thanksgiving, just before Christmas, and again last weekend.  Each of those times when a lot of precip fell, snow levels were 5,000′ or higher…sometimes much higher.  As mentioned in previous postings, this season seems quite similar to 2004-2005.  Although that year we had a much heavier rain-on-snow event right now that mostly finished off the ski areas for a few weeks.  At least this year we have Mt. Hood Meadows, Timberline, and Mt. Bachelor operating in the Cascades.

But due to the lack of snow, Cooper Spur, Skibowl, Summit, Hoodoo, Willamette Pass, and Mt. Ashland are all closed.  I see no hope of getting those areas open through the end of this month (next 10 days), and likely not in the first few days of February either.


Check out the ECMWF ensemble chart for the next 15 days:


The blue line is the operational model and all the thinner lines are additional runs of the same model.  Temperatures are in degrees Celsius on the left side and time runs from now (left side) to early February on the right.  This is around the 4,500′ elevation on Mt. Hood.  So that would mean the green line is more or less a snow level around 4,000′.  That means at no time in the next 10 days does the freezing level even make it down to around Government Camp!  There are two periods of extremely warm ridging along the West Coast…one Sunday/Monday and another around the 31st/1st of February.  Yes, you’re reading the chart right if you see around a +18 degrees early next week at that elevation.  60-65 degrees is the forecast high for Sunday and Monday at Government Camp!

As a result of all this, it’s definitely the worst ski season since 2004-2005.  I’ve mentioned before I never thought I would see back to back terrible snow years but it has happened.

Now last year it was like a switch was flipped after the 5th of February as one cold storm after another dumped heavy snow in the mountains.  Will that happen this year?  There are signs that we may not see a dramatic change this time.  Take a look at the ECMWF run from last night.  Twice a week the world’s best model is run out to 32 days.   Actually it is run many times with slightly different initial conditions to give us a general idea of what to expect.  So these maps are the compilation of all those “ensemble” runs.  The news isn’t good for skiers and snow pack in the mountains.

Week 1:  We already know this one…big ridge along the western part of North America this weekend and a 2nd ridge next weekend.  Warm and mainly dry


Week 2: A bit different, Looks like a few weak weather systems will make it through during this period, so maybe SOME snow in the Cascades.  But still looks near normal or above temperature-wise


Week 3:  The bad news returns…ridging is stronger and going back to it’s position right over us.  This is drier than normal and any storms that move in would be warmer than normal too.  This takes us through Valentine’s Weekend


Week 4:  Same thing, in fact the pattern is hardly different.  If this really occurs, it’ll feel like early spring with the rapidly increasing sunshine.  Strong troughing in the Gulf of Alaska and its wet storms is way out there.  I want to point out that each run of the monthly ECMWF has been somewhat similar over the past week too.


Based on these maps:

  • There’s no indication that we have a sudden turn-around just two weeks away like we did last year at this time
  • Warmer than normal mountain temperatures will continue
  • There may be a bit wetter period coming up around the 2nd-8th of February
  • Winter (or what is supposed to be winter) may just gradually fade away in mid-late February as higher sun angle and longer days can break up valley inversions easier.

By the way, maps last year at this time DID show the big change.  Look at the week 3 map from January 20th; quite a bit different from what we’re seeing now eh?


You notice I haven’t mentioned snow or cold in the lowlands.  That’s because none of these maps, or maps from any other model show anything close to that.  If we don’t get an arctic freeze in the next 3 weeks it’s not going to happen this year.  Sure, we could have a few cold days even in late February, but nothing long-lasting.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Those Funny School Kids

January 20, 2015

Every once in a while after I visit a school with my “weather roadshow” I get a bunch of “Thank You” letters from the class. It’s always great fun to see what the kids think of my visit.  One package arrived today so I read through them while I was downing some lasagna.  Funny stuff…the things kids say and write!  Here are two great examples of how those great minds work.  The first shows some serious creativity. schoolpic1 Check out the sun and cloud that pops up when I open it.  Then notice the very accurate 7 Day forecast down below.  Nice TV cabinet down below too.

The 2nd is cool because this girl obviously has something else on her mind…JELLYFISH!  school2  She squeezed a thank-you, a question, and an educational page/pics all into one 4×5″ space.   Check out that multi-tasking.  And no, I didn’t know you shouldn’t put a moon jellyfish with a spotted jellyfish…interesting stuff.

I go to 20-30 schools each school year, and one year I somehow made it to 55.  I really do enjoy visiting and I know a lot of these kids will remember that for the rest of their lives.  You might think I’m being a bit dramatic, but listen to this:  I still clearly remember a woman from 7-UP visiting my 4th grade class down in Monitor telling us about “citric acid” and she even brought free samples…quite a luxury in the 1970s.  And I also vividly remember missing out when Jeff Renner (KING-TV Chief Meteorologist in Seattle) visited my high school (W.F. West in Chehalis) around 1986.  I was so mad about that; didn’t know he was coming until after he had left.

I think any change from the usual routine sticks out in kid’s minds.  And hey, I get them out of spelling or math for 45 minutes so they probably like it when I show up.

By the way, if you’re a teacher, we do have a sign-up form on the weather page at  The bad news is that we’re full for this year.  We’ll be signing up classes again in August/September.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

ECMWF Weekly Maps

January 19, 2015

It’s Monday, and 4 fresh weekly maps just came in.  You know the routine; 1 map for each week of the ECMWF monthly run last night.  Each map shows the height anomaly (in color) at the 500 millibar level (around 18,000′).  They include the average height of all ensemble members as well.

Week 1:  We already know what’s coming, a very strong and warm upper-level ridge the end of this week and early next week.  Move along folks…nothing to see here.  Actually that’s not quite true.  Sunday or Monday could be spectacular anywhere above 1,500′ with warm temps in the 60s and maybe even some 70s.


Week 2:  Last week of January.  Ridge moves a little to our east, or actually develops over there.  We may see some rain at times, although it would still be mild rain.  This takes us to the 1st of February.  Looking at the daily maps on the control run, there would be some mountain snow later in the period here.


Week 3:  First week of February.  A bit different, the ridging flattens and heights go normal or a little below.  Looks much wetter to me.  Interesting upper-level high developing over Western Alaska may or may not play into to the forecast.  I haven’t seen the control run or even specific days of the ensembles to see what’s going on during this period.  Nothing too exciting can happen at this time since I’m on vacation for almost a week and “off-continent”.


Week 4:  Through mid-February and Valentine’s weekend.  Ridge wants to return to where it has been much of the winter, over Alaska and the west coast of North America.  Back to drier than normal.  The end of this period is about the time where the increasing sun angle and longer days can start seeing the inversions break a little.  A ridge over us on February 15th can easily give us 55 degree days without too much effort.  That said, the control run has the ridge slightly farther west a few days after Valentine’s Day (only 29 days away!) and a late season arctic blast on the 16th.  I’ll sneak one “illegal” pic showing that into here (shhh!):  eps_m_z500a_c_noram_59  Then ridging comes right back over us 17th-20th.  That would be very similar to what we saw in November and early December.


To wrap it up, maybe a wet period of some sort coming up around 8-14 days from now, then back to drier again.  No sign of a cold/snowy pattern for lowlands, or even foothills for that matter.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen