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!

Capture

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.

Why?

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.

500za_week1_bg_NA

500za_week2_bg_NA

500za_week3_bg_NA

500za_week4_bg_NA

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.

gfs_10dayprecip

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