We’re Living In Warm Times

10pm Wednesday…

We are living through a historic warm period.  No, not the new record for days above 90, 80, or 70 here in Portland. (But we will break the 70 degree record tomorrow)


Not the hottest summer on record, or the warmest winter on record, or the warmest January and June temperatures ever recorded at Government Camp (70 & 93).

I’m talking about the BIG PICTURE.  We have been consistently warm for almost two years now.  The last time we had anything close to a cool month across a good portion of the Pacific Northwest was way back in February 2014!  Yes, we had a cold spell last November, but the warm temperatures in other parts of the month cancelled out that cold.  201411

February 2014 was below normal here, although not really a “cold” month.


You have to go all the way back to December 2013 to find a COLD month


So far this year (through September) is the warmest on record in most of the Pacific Northwest.

In Oregon climate zone #2 (lower elevations westside) it IS the warmest on record:


Most likely next year will be warmer than normal as well with El Nino dominating the first half of the year.  Calendar year 2014 was the 2nd warmest in our area.

This is quite a turnaround from 2010-2011 when short-term trends showed cooling through the early 2000s.  During that time I would sometimes get emails from critics about how our climate was “cooling”.  Well, if you cherry-pick the data you can often find a trend that agrees with your view.  I prefer to look at the real big picture:

Our climate is slowly warming (regardless of the reason) but the extreme warmth of the past 1.5 years is likely a highly anomalous event that may not be repeated for a while.

Many times I’ve discussed the reasons for the warmth:

  1. Upper level ridging (high pressure) has tended to want to hang around the West Coast or just west/northwest of us for extended periods beginning in January 2014.
  2. Warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific.  If air comes off the ocean much of the year then that air will be warmed more in this case.

It’s possible #1 goes away anytime, but #2 will likely stay put through this El Nino winter.  Thus another mild winter as mentioned in my El Nino postings (see tabs above main blog posting).

If we swing to La Nina conditions next year, that could very well put us back to cooler again.  But in our gradually warming climate the “cool years” will not be as cool in the future.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

25 Responses to We’re Living In Warm Times

  1. Garron (1/3 of a mile from the Hillsboro airport) says:

    Just got back from a rather warm trip. Flew to LA to see some friends last Friday and Sat. It was 108 and 100 degrees respectively. Then we drove through the dessert to Las Vegas, and it was in the mid 90’s Sun-yesterday. Just as we were flying out, thunderstorms were rolling in, wish we could’ve stayed one more night! Great trip, awesome food, and spectacular end to summer for me! They are projecting this to be the warmest October even by Las Vegas standards.

  2. Jason Hougak says:

    Loading up for a job this morning felt like summer except for all the leaves from the Oregon Ash trees. It’s been so dry that we’ve lost over half of my Red Cedar trees at our shop along the creek. The trees are well established and 10-15′ tall but this year has taken it’s toll. I’ve also noticed the fir trees are in drought mode dropping a lot more pine needles trying to conserve moisture.

  3. Josh "the snowman" Gladstone says:

    From that graph we will be heading back down but it’ll be a 3 to 4 year experience.

    I’m still calling for a couple nice arctic fronts this year. The torches in between is what will skew the numbers. Keep the studded tires and chains handy I think. Mother Nature does what she does.

  4. WEATHERDAN says:

    80 at 4:00 PM. Today is the 100th day over 80 this year in Salem. Also the 160th day over 70 for the year. The culmination of a record breaking Summer-again. Peace. Maybe .15 rain on Saturday Then partly cloudy on Sunday for a good barbecue day. Peace.

  5. W7ENK says:

    The theme I see recurring in your graph…

    …is a crash after every single peak.

    We’ve been holding in positive territory for several consecutive years now, so I’d expect another crash (perhaps significant) in the next year or two.

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      I totally agree, especially if we suddenly swing to La Nina next year. Note the last paragraph

    • WEATHERDAN says:

      The next dip will likely be less than in the past. About 120 years ago temps generally 53.5 at the max and 50.5 for the min. Now the max is around 57.0 and the min is around 52,5. I expect the next dip to be around 53.0 or just about the average temp. From 1900 to 1970 about 70% of the time it was below normal. However Since 1970 about 85% of the time we have been above avg. What this tells me is that our normal temps are now higher than in the past. So in the future a cool Summer will be what a normal Summer would have been in 1960. Which is to say while yes it would indicate a few cooler Summers in our future they won’t be all that cool. Peace.

  6. The last couple of la Nina winters were nothing to boast about for me. It seems I read somewhere that our coldest winter temperatures come during neutral (“La Nada”) years. Has anyone else read/heard that also?

  7. Dave in South Salem (500') says:

    The forecast high will need to be revised downward today if the clouds that weren’t supposed to be here stick around.

  8. Jason Hougak says:

    It’s obvious that the Earth has gone through numerous warm and cooling phases. There are so many factors to it that we may never understand.

    • Paul D says:

      One factor I understand: whenever I leave Oregon for more than a few days in the summer, the temperatures drop to below normal.

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      I think you are correct. Getting a better handle on the human-caused issues, but lots more to learn about what solar and other factors do to our climate. I’m sure there are still plenty of surprises to come well after you and I are long gone.

    • GTS1K' says:

      Adapt or die…..

    • Boydo3 N. Albany says:

      “Adapt or die” is a good line. Since life began the slow crawl from the primordial slime, it has always been as such. Too bad the dinosaurs missed the memo….or did they?

  9. Sapo says:

    Great post! Ya, looks like when the NW is above average, the east coast/midwest is below average, and vice versa.

  10. Great post- I appreciate all this information.

  11. This wind. It is windy here in Kelso tonight.

  12. Mark bergal says:

    Appreciate the summation. I prefer to think that things balance out and eventually we go in the opposite direction. I find it terrifying to think there is that chance we only head in the warm direction.

  13. leer` Geddy says:

    At what point will La nina’s be as warm as El nino?, don’t know if im even excited for la nina winters anymore with the thought of that happening.

  14. Benjamin (West Salem) says:

    Good write up. It will be interesting to see how long it will be before this very persistent ridge pattern leaves us. Seem like the ridging has been hanging around since the winter of 2013/2014.

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