Winter Is Over: What Does That Mean?


I know what you’re thinking…one of 3 things:

“What Winter?  Please, tell me when this thing called winter happened?”


“Yeah, real tough forecast Nelsen…after 5 days in the 60s this month!”


“Are you nuts?  Winter doesn’t end until the 3rd week of March!”

We did actually have SOME winter this year.  You may remember the cold blast in mid-November was the earliest we’ve seen in years.  Remember the widespread Winter Storm Warnings on November 13th?  At that point I was thinking…”oh geez, it’s going to be a long winter in the weather center”.  But after that time the only other significant event was a somewhat localized windstorm in mid December that seemed to focus on the metro area up through parts of SW Washington.  That was a strange storm that didn’t do much on the Coast, central/south Willamette Valley, or Puget Sound.

Here in the lowest elevations of the Pacific Northwest, west of the Cascades, almost all our significant winter weather events happen between mid-November and mid-February.  Snowstorms, windstorms, ice storms, & flooding.  You get the idea…it’s rare to have these events (not so much with wind) outside of this time period.

But the past two months (mid-December to mid-February) have been Dullsville.  It has also been the warmest December-February on record here in Portland…so far.

Looking ahead to the next 11 days it appears the warm record may hold since we don’t see any really cold air before the end of the month.  We can see general weather patterns on our models a good 10-15 days in the future and no models are showing a stormy or unusually cold pattern through the first few days of March.  Just a return to what we should normally see this time of year (see previous post).  So…


What does that mean?  This applies to anywhere west of the Cascades (including the Coast) below 1,000′.

1. You can take your snow tires off IF you plan to stay in the lowest elevations (below 1,500′) for the next few weeks.

2. You can unwrap your pipes, or any plants that need to be protected from temps below 25-28 degrees.

3.  We probably won’t see more school snow days or delays in these lowest elevations.

4.  Strong and cold east wind episodes are finished in the Gorge.  Still windy at times, but not the really cold stuff we saw in November and December.  The east wind always disappears in early March and then reappears in the fall.

5.  Dense and widespread valley fog is unlikely between now and October.  As we’ve seen the past week, inversion season is about over.

Here’s a good idea of what we won’t see again until next winter and what is still possible:


Of course we all remember March of 2012 when wet snow fell several times in March.  That’s always possible, but we’ve only seen March snow in the lowest elevations 3 times in the past 19 years!  And each time it’s been the wet/slushy overnight and morning stuff in the metro area.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

58 Responses to Winter Is Over: What Does That Mean?

  1. Jason Hougak says:

    Southeast getting hammered again, 13F Nashville and 20F in Atlanta. Winter hitting hard in eastern US. Hard freeze warnings into Florida. My buddy in New Hampshire has over three feet of snow and it’s not going away anytime soon. Keeps sending pics of the winter wonderland they’ve had this year. Funny nobody even complains about it. PNW people are a bunch of whiners.
    “It’s okay Lloyd we’ll get our chance too… we’ve just got to keep our eyes open.”

    • Boydo3 N. Albany elev. just under 500' says:

      New England is used to it. I remember visiting some friends there at Goddard college, Vermont in the 70s in March. 4′ snow banks along the main street thru town. They were all tired of it by then. “Dirty snow”.

  2. Dave Saleskie (or however you spell his last name) put a fork in it too.

  3. oldwxwatcher says:

    If the NWS March outlook pans out we may be in for more of the same old, same old: “DYNAMICAL MODEL GUIDANCE FOR MARCH INDICATES THE PERSISTENCE OF

    • Brian Leroy says:

      It’s not gonna happen nothing last foreverl even the cpc is showing below avg temps in the 8-14 outlook it’s game on for a wet and cold March you sound like weather dan, just stop.

    • High Desert Mat says:

      Bravo Brian. Bravo

    • WEATHERDAN says:

      Right Brian why face reality when fantasy makes you feel so good. The NWS has trained professional meteorologists on staff 24/7 do you. First a model comes out that says hey we might have a cool and wet pattern so you get real excited and go hooray, it has to happen because a model predicted it. Then another model comes out a few days later predicting more of the RRR and you go no way ain’t gonna happen. Models quite often flip back and forth sometimes a couple of times in the same day. We probably will get some rainy and cool weather the first few days of March. Then it’s probably back to the RRR the 2nd half of the month. And yes it’s looks like some snow in the mountains. Maybe 2-3 feet of it at Timberline. During the time the CPC has us below average our average goes from 55-57 degrees. 5 degrees below average puts us at right about 50-52. Cool but not cold. Even the below average temps may go away in the next model run. Over the next couple of weeks we get some of the cooler air of to the East to move our way. But the heart of the cold air remains well to our East and is not shifting West. I hate to be a real downer man but sometimes you just gotta be real. As far as Spring starting on about March 20th, that is astronomical Spring. Meteorological Spring is March-May. As Casey Stengel once said “You could look it up”. Peace.

    • chris s says:

      No offense again Dan, but your all over the place with your forecast. Snow down to timberline, then its maybe to 2-3k, then its maybe we get some rain and mountain snow for a few days beginning of march, then back to death ridge. It seems as though you maybe are getting way to hung up on each model run by wavering your forecasts. Again, I said over a week ago that we would see snow down to as low as 2000ft in the next few weeks, and you at the time said no way in heck basically. I am sticking to my forecast, even though there have been some warm runs the past few days, as well as some cold runs like yesterday that taken at face value would give us some wet snow in Salem. Both more than likely are outliers, and the truth is in the middle. So make a forecast and stick with it is what im saying…..

    • High Desert Mat says:

      @ Dan, Jesus.

  4. When is the next wicked windstorm events in march going to happen?
    We get them every fall and winter months

  5. Hey, everyone. It has been awhile. Hope you’re all doing well, or as well as is possible.

    Strong, chilly east winds don’t want to give up easily….

    …. Strong and fairly cold east wind Sunday
    It has been awhile since we’ve seen the Wintry colors return to the maps and 925mb temps this chilly.

    • Great to have you back Rob.

    • JohnD says:

      Good to have you post Rob. It has been a long winter less winter for us. Do you really think something can come of this–so late in the season? Hope so. Curious this morning’s NOAA AFD makes no mention.

    • W7ENK says:

      Eye candy!

      I’d like some of Montana’s magenta, please?

    • Boydo3 N. Albany elev. just under 500' says:

      And the tv weather guessers are still calling for near 60 deg on Sunday1

    • High Desert Mat says:

      Haven’t seen you over on western lately either Rob. I know that nothing was exciting this winter really and summer is summer so I know why you haven’t been around much, but what is your gut telling you for next winter?

    • A more typical Winter. More chilly NW flow. Average to above average Snow pack. 1-3 arctic blasts.

    • High Desert Mat says:

      Thanks. I foresee a more typical and regular storm pattern as well. Maybe a week of snow and cold at the height of winter. Til then, bring on sun and warmth.

  6. Eugene Dave says:

    I fully expect another “close but no cigar” system in early March. In mid November, we got that “too early” system that just wasn’t quite cold enough to provide the goods for the lowlands. Get ready for the same thing, except it’ll be a “too late” system.

    • Sapo says:

      Yeah, it could be something similar to mid-Novemer in March if something does happen, I personally think we won’t get cold enough anymore for a big event, maybe we’ll have a rain snow mix or something, but really I see that as unlikely too.

    • W7ENK says:

      I wholeheartedly agree, Dave. Too early, too late, too warm, too little moisture… always seems to be too “something” around here. Except too snowy. I’ve only seen that here in PDX once in my life (Dec. 2008), and I don’t expect to ever see it again, even if I do make my goal of 121 years.

    • Sapo says:

      Yup, exactly my thoughts

    • I’m curious what a March “too late event” would look like. Would it have to take the form of onshore wet snow showers or could we get a cold east wind through the Gorge?

  7. Jason Hougak says:

    What are they feeding the 18z… crack??? At the end of Dec. it went all out mega arctic invasion on us and got my hopes for a Nor’wester winter only to be popped by a giant fork. Who knows maybe it’ll be right at some point… I do love seeing the temps at 5K ft back below freezing after 2 months, geez!

  8. I think it is safe to say that now tbat the weatherman said winter is over, it’ll resume and be harsh. No offense Mark.

  9. MountainMan says:

    Let’s see, at 1,178 ft. in the foot hills (western Gorge) I kept the following records of snow accumulation and notations of the approx. snow level whenever I made a trip to town in the snow…

    2008: 12” in March and 4-1/2” April (Slush noted as low as approx. 700 ft.)

    2009: 9-1/2” in March and 2” April (Slush noted as low as approx. 300 ft.)

    2010: 3” in March (only a trace noted at 1000 ft.)

    2011: 5-1/2” March 1st (But 28” on the ground mostly from late Feb and a big storm Feb 28th that took all of March to melt and a brief ½” on May 1st. Slush noted as low as approx. 300 ft.)

    2012: 32” March and 1” April (Slush noted as low as river level)

    2013: 2-1/2” March (Slush noted at approx 800 ft.)

    2014: Only one out of 7 without snow (Maybe I’m overdue), but I did get 2” of hail that stuck to the road for hours.

    I should take the snow tires off if I’m below 1,500 ft? I’m not so sure yet even if you are near 800 ft. Snow seems common in March even in the lower hills looking at just the last 7 years. Sure if you’re in the valley, a 2012 setup is extremely unusual.

    • High Desert Mat says:

      Studs? Really, in March? I think its silly to each his own. Studs really only help on ice not in the snow. One inch of snow falls in the Portland area and people freak out and race to Schwabbies. Most places in the world aren’t like that. Kind of strange.

    • High Desert Mat says:

      And to put snow levels in increments of ‘100’s of feet is also silly, Mark agrees.

    • W7ENK says:

      Studs? Where did he say studs?? I don’t see the word studs… I do, however, see where he said “snow tires.” I have snow tires on my car. They don’t have any studs.

    • MountainMan says:

      Wow Mat, are you trolling me?
      1. You should understand the difference between forecasting a snow level and observing an actual snow level and making a comment about its averages. I agree in a forecast snow levels should be in 500 ft. increments.
      2. You must not drive steep, windy, mountain back roads in the snow too often. Snow tires make a huge difference in my travels whether snow or ice. I am clearly not referring to people in the lowest elevations.
      Why the troll comments?

    • W7ENK says:

      He’s bored.

    • High Desert Mat says:

      Calm down guys I’m not trollin. Erik, snow tires, studs, whatever. Sometimes I like to troll when I’m bored but this isn’t one of them. By the way, you guys see 18z today? Ya, that’ll happen lol.

  10. We had snow here(Vancouver, BC) in May back in 2002- so I’m not ruling out a surprise just yet! 🙂

  11. Larry says:

    Not only are we going to be dealing with drought conditions later this year, but the elephant in the room – insects. Really hasn’t been cold enough to kill off last year’s bugs.

  12. WEATHERDAN says:

    How pathetic is it when we get excited about our highs dropping back to normal. Here in Salem our average high temperature for this February is over 57 degrees, a record. GFS meteogram has about 1 inch of rain over the next 16 days with snow down to maybe 3,000 feet and highs in the 52-56 degree range. About what you might expect in early March. But cool when compared to the last few days. But snow down low, no chance. Mark has put the fork in Winter and he wouldn’t do that unless he has the facts to back him up. 65 in Salem today. The record is 67 so we got close but missed it. Now we should have a marine push on Wednesday. That is more typically found in Summer. Went for a walk in Bushes Pasture Park near my home in Salem but didn’t see Owlgetcha the attack owl. Stories about the owl are real hoot. Peace.

    • Chris s says:

      Your right Dan, there is no chance of snow down low….geez I mean you live in Salem like I do, March 2012 ring a bell??

    • Brian Leroy says:

      March 2012 was also a strong La nina winter so I think our chances this go around aren’t very good but I could happen of course, just saying.

    • Brian Leroy says:

      Correction 2012 was a weak La nina. ill shut up now, lol

    • WEATHERDAN says:

      Chris as was aptly pointed out March of 2012 was in a LaNina Winter. We are not. Also let’s see Chris how many times has it snowed that late. Oh yeah once. Sure you can always find some time when it has done this or that. For example in May of 1983 it reached 101 in Salem. The first and only time that has happened. So tell you what Chris would you bet money that it will reach 100 in Salem this May. People let’s be real, just because something happens once or twice in 120 years it’s unlikely to be a regular occurrence. Do you remember all the days it has hit 90 in July. Of course not because it happens on a regular basis. So once since 1892 it has snowed that late so we drag that statistic out and say it could happen again like it’s likely. Yes it could happen under just the right circumstances none of which are present this time. Will it be cooler in 10 days? Yes. Cold enough to snow in Salem or Portland? No. Not by a longshot. Hey you can post what you want. You can forecast a blizzard in Portland on March 1st if you want. But I would ask you are you basing this forecast on what is likely or what is about a 1% chance. Normal highs around March 1st are in the mid 50,s Forecasts from the NWS and the CPC have us at 50-55 with some snow down to maybe 2-3k. And the 16 day GFS metogram gives us about 1.5 inches of precipitation. That translates out to maybe 36 inches of snow up at the ski resorts. A nice dump to be sure but not nearly enough to even get the snowpack up to 25% of normal. So we get some much needed snow in the mountains and some normal March showers down low. Normal but I guess in this very warm Winter even that is big news. Peace.

    • Chris s says:

      With all due respect Dan, I have stuck by my forecast for the past week, if you remember. You told me no way we get snow down to 2000ft… And your initial forecast was maybe down to timberline. So now you keep adjusting your forecast, while continuing to have a huge warm bias with your high temps. I will go ahead and say at some point in the next 3 weeks we will see some snow in the air in Salem, and I will stick to that, not change my mind every 6 hours. 🙂

    • High Desert Mat says:

      I agree Chris. Dan thinks if it snows in Salem or PDX in any given winter its blasphemy. But if we have record highs and especially record high lows its normal? Weird. Just sayin.

    • Brian Leroy says:

      Thanks for the smart ass remark mat, ill let it go this time, just sayin, lol

    • High Desert Mat says:

      Thanks Brian

    • WEATHERDAN says:

      Yes I have changed my mind because evidence now points to snow down to 2-3k. Look this isn’t a game nor is this politics. If the numbers change then so will my forecast. So what. Would you rather have me be so dogmatic that once a forecast is made even if the models change I do not. That isn’t meteorology, that’s wishcasting. Mark sometimes changes his forecast between 5 and 10 PM. Mark is the consummate professional. He adjusts his forecasts as weather maps change. I try to do the same. Maybe you should try it as well. Peace.

  13. Sandi (Wilsonville) says:

    Not at all sad to say goodbye to the dense fog until next Fall!

  14. Mother Nature gets a “F” for producing a winter that rivals the pitiful winter of 2004-05.

  15. Chris s says:

    March of 2012 was pretty good down here in Salem… And correct me if I am wrong but I think you had forked that winter too Mark?? It was more than a am snow too😉

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      Yep, that was the year I screwed it up. Although technically it was just a few wet morning snowfalls in Portland so here it was okay. That was a crazy snowstorm for mid-March in the valley though!

  16. Garron near Washington square says:

    I love the NWS evening update. Especially the part about Cascade snowfall next week…and “don’t hold your breath!”

  17. W7ENK says:

    So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu…

  18. Aleta says:

    We had freezing rain the first of March last year. That was the weirdest thing. It was very patchy and really depended where you were at.

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