Another Way To Look at El Nino Winters

10pm Friday…

Nothing groundbreaking here, but two graphics that convey a bit more about this upcoming winter.  A look at the BIG picture across the country.

First, El Nino temperature anomalies across the region for the 6 strong Nino events we’ve seen since 1950.  That’s what we have this year.  Note 5 of 6 winters are generally warmer than normal…when the whole winter is averaged.  Then the bigger image is the composite of all 6 years:


Then the precipitation anomaly for those 6 years, along with the composite of all 6:


3 were normal or wetter than average, 3 were significantly drier than normal.  The composite we often look at says El Nino is usually drier than normal.  But examining the maps you see some years have been a bit wetter than normal but the dry years have been significantly drier than normal.  That skews the composite to the dry side.  By looking at all 6 separately it’s obvious a drier than normal winter is definitely not a lock.

Again, none of this is ground-breaking material, but I wanted to point out that each El Nino is different and the effects are definitely not the same each time around.  I have a feeling in another 50 years, when many of us are long gone, we’ll have a much better idea about the “flavors” of El Nino.

Have a great weekend and enjoy the clouds/showers!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

56 Responses to Another Way To Look at El Nino Winters

  1. Josh "the snowman" Gladstone says:

    Portland just missed the deformation zone. So sad.

  2. WEATHERDAN says:

    66 and partly cloudy at Noon. On our way to about 70. Mainly dry and mild this week. Most of the trees are still sporting green leaves. Back in the 1960,s they would not only be mainly brown by now but they would almost all be off the trees by now. Interesting to see what the brain trust has to say next Saturday about our Winter weather. See you there. Peace.

  3. Longview 400 ft says:

    Pappoose, according to the radar, you’re getting hammered with heavy showers. How are you holding up?

    • pappoose in scappoose says:

      Was fun to see. Got over .50″
      Wanna see the pond fill up. Looks like a big mud puddle right now, as low as I’ve ever seen it.

    • Longview 400 ft says:

      Boy, I would give anything to get .50 of rain for my trees. I kept waiting for that line of showers to move north so I could the goods for my trees. It refused to do so. Glad your pond is no longer a mud puddle. LOL

    • pappoose in scappoose says:

      The pond is still a mud puddle!
      I’m guessing it’ll take a couple inches of rain before it starts filling.

      Glad all my trees have a few years on em now.
      Was tough keeping the brush off em when they were youngsters.

  4. DEL X V says:

    I find the latest FNMOC output interesting. It shows a tropical storm moving northward to about 30N 142 W by next Saturday and about to enter the upper west wind belt. A long time out and low confidence output but interesting since it is still October, like 1962.

    • DEL X V says:

      I note the NWS PDX has mentioned this tropical depression the last couple of days in their extended fcst discussion.

  5. Farmer Ted says:

    Back in December 1972 we had a prolonged major snow event and a very cold month.

    • Was it cold all month, or did it warm up and become wet in the second half of that December? Just checking and comparing…

    • WEATHERDAN says:

      I remember that December very well. I was a freshmen in college that year and right after we turned the calendar it turned bittly cold. The cold spell lasted from the 4th-21st and saw temps as low as -12. Highs struggled to get out of the teens and we has 3 snowstorms during that time frame. Some times with a foot of snow on the ground. Then it turned very mild and very wet with inches of rain and temps as warm as the low 60,s. Early January saw a short mini cold spell and a little snow but overall it was a mild winter with an early Spring. Peace.

    • Intresting to read your account of December 1972, Weatherdan. I was in high school at the time. We had very cold temperatures and some snow through the first half of the month. Then after the 15th it really got milder here and on Christmas Day it poured heavy rain all day- in fact I measured over 4 inches that day! We did have a cold spell in January 1973 (I recall playing hockey on a frozen pond) but it wasn’t quite as intense as the month before.

    • Farmer Ted says:

      It was a winter to remember indeed, lots of tubing behind cars on the snow packed roads, and there were not many cars out in the deep snow in those days. I was 20 years old and drove to Sandpoint Idaho for my aunts funeral, and it was still cold but dry at that time and very beautiful.

    • Farmer Ted says:

      I meant to add after Christmas

  6. () says:

    I’m starting to not even bother with these forecasts. They get you excited about 5 days out but every day you get closer the weather always just changes towards dry, dry, dry….

  7. schmit44 says:

    10/17/2015 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:84 at CW6808 Imnaha(2870 ft)
    Low: 60 at Medford Viaduct(1359 ft)

    High:50 at PATTON MEADOWS A(6780 ft)
    Low: 27 at NPOWDR (3212 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 46 degrees
    NPOWDR (73/27 ) (3212 ft )

    Heaviest Rainfall:
    0.77″ at TEPEE DRAW(4735ft)
    0.75″ at CW6028 Pine Mtn(6296ft)
    0.72″ at SALT CREEK-PRINE(4155ft)
    0.72″ at Worden(4080ft)

  8. Jason Hougak says:

    Radar showing a large area of heavy precip heading up the Cascade and foothills slope just entering Clackamas County. It’s gonna be a good one.

  9. () says:

    Rain is missing in action once again.

    • Joshua says:

      Yep. This theme has been going for a while. What looks like certain rain a few days out, turns into a couple of sprinkles. What looks warm and dry, turns out warmer and drier.

    • Paul D says:

      Exactly. It’s the new norm.

  10. Jason Hougak says:

    The reality of our hot summer
    It’s not a glacier but a snowfield so Timberline will most likely find ways to adapt to changing climate conditions. Meadows has a system to harvest snow from the parking lot and move it to the ski slopes. Timberline may have to do the same. I know that the lower mountain could have used it last winter.

    • Farmer Ted says:

      Your reality is much different than mine.

    • Jason Hougak says:

      You know Ted your not a skier or snowboarder are you so why even post. All I’m doing is posting facts of what the past few years have done to the Timberline ski industry. Get a clue it’s reality!

    • Boring Oregon says:


    • Farmer Ted says:

      Don’t get your knicker’s in a knot Jason, to quote you “the reality of our hot summer”, what the hell does summer weather have to do with the coming winter? Again best for you to get a reality check soon.

    • Jason Hougak says:

      The post is about how the Palmer snowfield is almost gone by these poor winter snowpacks and hot summers. I was referring to how Meadows has been making wise use of what snow they get on their parking lot and makes use of it on the ski slope. It’s snow that years ago was just pushed aside. Timberline may have to develope a similar approach to aid in the Palmer snowfield to last through summer. Unfortunately the Palmer sits on Mt. Hoods south slope and has a lot against it.

  11. Jason Hougak says:

    Nice and very interesting radar picture this morning. Heavy steady rain for an hour since I’ve woke up.

  12. Tyler Mode in Battle Ground says:

    One strike about 1/2 mile away woke me from a dead sleep. These videos are from subsequent strikes:

  13. Farmer Ted says:

    Update, at 5:08 this morning we had a direct hit on our power grid, house lights flashed on and off with simultaneous lightning and thunder in the Barton Park area.

    • EY (Oak Grove) says:

      Pretty sure I saw that one. Two sort of in the same vicinity: ESE/SE of my house. One seemed REALLY bright.

    • Boring Oregon says:

      In my location, the lightning was just ver bright and the thunder was very loud but I did see one particular strike that was obviously cloud to ground and I think that might have been the one. I counted too and I got to three before I heard the thunder.

  14. Boring Oregon says:

    Was woke up 10 minutes ago from crazy lightning and thunder.

  15. Aleta says:

    Is in Gresham now! Seems like a decent one!

  16. EY (Oak Grove) says:

    Over a dozen flashes of lightning in about 10 minutes here in Oak Grove. One was loud enough to reach over my headphones. @_@

  17. Farmer Ted says:

    Thunder and lightning just rolling through east Clackamas County, could be a good one!

  18. runrain says:

    The line looks maybe closer to Wilsonville and south.

  19. runrain says:

    Lightning! And some thunder. Over SE Portland.

  20. leer` Geddy says:

    Looks like the Olympics and WA cascades could get there first significant snowfall of the season by the end of next week with SL down to 4,000 Ft.

  21. schmit44 says:

    10/16/2015 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:90 at MERLIN SEED ORCH(1144 ft)
    Low: 64 at EVANS CREEK(3257 ft) & Troutdale (I-84(29 ft)

    High:53 at YACHTS Yachats(72 ft)
    Low: 24 at Horse Ridge (US (4160 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 55 degrees
    EW2055 Prairie C (89/34 ) (3547 ft )

    Heaviest Rainfall:
    0.12″ at HYATT DAM AND RE(5013ft)

  22. Boydo3 N. Albany says:

    Wow, big time SSE flow carrying the rain off shore tonite…

  23. Paul D says:

    So this winter won’t be normal. It’ll be warmer, or colder, or wetter, or drier. Got it.

  24. Justin says:

    Mark, I feel that it is worth noting that ENSO data does to some extent exist before 1950, so while the dataset isn’t perfectly continuous (different indicies and whatnot), you can expand the sample size a bit by including pre-1950 events since I feel we have a pretty good idea of how strong El Nino winters behaved in the PNW between 1870 and 1950.

    The Nino 3.4 Index goes back to 1871 and shows a number of other strong El Nino winters in that 80 year period. I’ve found 10 other winters that were almost certainly enough to be classified as strong El Ninos.

    1877-78: Super Nino very similar to this year or 1997-98/1982-83. This winter was warm and very wet in the PNW, with little lowland snow.

    1888-89: A warm and dry dud of a winter, wedged in the middle of an exceptional period for cold and snow around here.

    1896-97: Unusual winter with a record cold November and record cold March in Portland, some historic arctic airmasses. Was wet, as well.

    1899-00: Exceptionally mild winter even by today’s standards. Near average precip. One arctic blast in February.

    1902-03: Fairly wet and mostly pretty mild winter, just some wet snow towards the end.

    1905-06: Warm and dry winter, but like 1897 it had a remarkable cold event in March.

    1918-19: Near average temps and precip, but with no snow or arctic air.

    1925-26: A historic blowtorch of a winter, awful for the mountains and no snow anywhere.

    1930-31: Extremely dry and mild, no significant snow or cold spell.

    1940-41: You know the drill by now! Very dry and mild with little to no snow around the metro area.

    What I find fascinating is how overwhelming this historic signal is. Sure, every event is different and it only takes a few days to turn a winter around here. But with 16 or so events to glean from in our historic record, there’s a decent sample size by now that really indicates a big time chance for a warmer and drier than normal winter with very little snow regionally.

    • Fascinating historical data there! I agree that the odds of it being a mild and drier winter than normal are pretty good. Still- there’s that occasional one (i.e.1896-97) that goes against the grain. Looking at Mark’s list, I’m old enough to recall winter 1965-66. That one had quite a lot of snow here.

    • WEATHERDAN says:

      Very good data Justin. So it looks like 14 out of 16 very strong El Nino Winters (88%) since 1871 have been warmer than normal. And most have been drier than normal as well. Of course anything could happen this Winter but were I to be a betting man I would put my money on another Winter like last Winter which led into a very warm Spring which led to, well you know what happened this Summer. But to digress, anything is possible and we might wake up come January to 2 feet of snow. Excuse me I’m going to Vegas to place a bet. Peace.

    • W7ENK says:

      From where did you source this data?

    • W7ENK says:

      Very cool, thanks!

  25. leer` Geddy says:

    So more of the same summer for the next four seasons, I give up.

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

    That is fascinating stuff! I guess we can only wait and see what nature throws our way. One last beautiful day today though!

  27. LDT says:

    The big question remains… What will the blob do to the already warmer than average el nino winter being forecasted?

    • I don’t know. Maybe this will be the first winter in Portland history (or perhaps elsewhere) that won’t have a temperature below 32F. Wouldn’t that be something? :-).

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