El Nino Update

9pm Wednesday…

Just a quick (or maybe not so quick) update on how we’re doing with El Nino so far this winter.

Average temperatures across the USA in December/January:


Much of the West has been warmer than normal, mainly the northern half;  Cooler than normal across much of the southern half of the West.  That is about what we would expect in a strong El Nino year with warmer than normal temps across the north due to more frequent ridging.  Yes, it’s been another mild winter, but nothing like the warmest ever we saw last year.

What about rain/snow?  I think we all know the answer; it’s been very wet.  150-200% of normal across NW Oregon and SW Washington.  Most areas along the West Coast except far southern California have been well above normal.  The interior is a bit more of a mixed bag.  What sticks out most is that extreme southern California has been relatively “dry”…only running about average.  One theory for the lack of strong systems way down there (as opposed to other strong El Ninos) is that the unusually wet jet stream has been pushed farther north this time around.  That possibly due to a shift in the warm water along the equator OR the warming climate.  Those are just guesses.  It seems to me we have seen more subtropical ridging near the West Coast than we would typically see in an El Nino winter, but I could be wrong…just an observation.  Of course we still have February/March to soak those areas down south, but there is no sign of a significant change in the next 10-15 days.


This is what I wrote back in the fall (and it’s still on the tab on the top of this page)


The drier part didn’t happen but the mild part did.  #2, #3, & #5 have worked out fine.  We never had a big regional flood, but plenty of localized flooding back in December.  We sure didn’t have an arctic blast either, that doesn’t surprise me.

It’s beginning to appear this wet season/winter is going to be remembered for a VERY wild December (through Jan 3rd) and that’s it.  The rest being mild/wet but quite boring.  That’s assuming we don’t have a total change coming up around mid-February of course.  Yesterday Cliff Mass had a great posting about El Nino (my inspiration)…more maps and charts here:


Okay, let’s talk Cascade snow too.  That seems to be working out quite well.  If you recall, EVERY El Nino since 1970 has brought below normal snow to Gov’t Camp (4,000′).  That’s continuing this year.  Govy has seen 109″ so far this season, 149″ is normal through the end of January.  Every month except December has been below average.  If average snow falls in February, March, & April, we’d still end up with 225″ for the season, below the 270″ average.  Here’s the chart for Govy with the SO FAR numbers in yellow..much better than last year!


Higher up, at Mt. Hood Meadows the season total is of course much higher…271″ so far. Below are the number SO FAR in yellow for them compared to Govy.  This winter seems to be a case of warmer storms keeping the best snow up high…that is what we thought might happen.  I don’t have the average numbers by month up at Meadows so I don’t know how they would end up with average snow from here on out.  Again…FAR better than last year!  And we’ve already passed up the bad El Nino years of 91-92 and 04-05.


Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

14 Responses to El Nino Update

  1. W7ENK says:

    El Niño = overall boring winter.
    La Niña = overall boring winter.
    El Neutro = overall boring winter.

    Is there any pattern, or combination of patterns that commonly breaks us out of this overall boring winter routine, or is it just a crap shoot? I’m guessing crap shoot, since there’s no consistency to any of it, other than “overall boring winter”.


    6 more weeks of overall boring winter at my house. Wake me up when that first 70 shows up inside 60 hours.


  2. oops- sorry, I meant to sign in my name to a message I just sent. If it appears as “anonymous” it’s probably me!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Looking ahead to next week, I see we here (in Vancouver BC) are also getting the sunshine with daily maximums somewhere in the mid-50’s. I think I might get a 60F if the wind comes from an offshore direction in sufficient strength. On the opposite end, I haven’t seen a freezing minimum since January 15th. With drier air perhaps we’ll see that as well. I have never gone an entire February without at least one freezing minimum.

  4. WEATHERDAN says:

    Cloudy but dry this morning. Only .14 since last afternoon. So we missed the heavier rain up North. Looking forward to the nice weather next week. Maybe 60-65. This should have the daffodils and crocuses out in no time. Tulips and cherry blossoms to follow by the end of the month. Lots of new snow up in the mountains this week. Should be great skiing this weekend. I have never been on the slopes. Probably break my leg if I tried, but I am glad for the snow anyway. Hood looks so nice this year. 10 days or so till MLB starts Spring training. Peace.

  5. Jake-(Gresham) says:

    Welp, woke up to a down pour yep, still Winter. Goes back into hibernation (at least that’s what it feels like this week for some reason).

  6. Paul says:

    Looking at those snowfall records, I think using the median snowfall value would give a better picture of what typically happens up there – as opposed to the average values. Those two huge snow years clearly skewed the average well above what a “normal” year is.

  7. ockman says:

    Hi Mark Nelson.
    I Would like to know what kind of a summer are we going to have this year? also when are we going to have a cold snap this month?
    Also when is there going to be a windstorm event we had lots of them this fall and winter month’s
    It was raining this morning in east Portland.
    I Take lots of storm event pictures and send them to the TV Stations.
    Stay dry Brandon bockman

  8. schmit44 says:

    2/3/2016 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:55 at BANDON( 79 ft) & Bullards Bridge(23 ft)
    Low: 48 at Gold Beach(16 ft) & Port Orford(0 ft)

    High:21 at ANTELOPE(6460 ft) & NRAWS 5 (WINDY(6308 ft)
    Low: -8 at UNITY DAM AND BU (3756 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 38 degrees
    UNITY DAM AND BU (30/-8 ) (3756 ft )

    Heaviest Rainfall:
    1.91″ at HEBOWX Mt. Hebo(3160ft)
    1.80″ at CEDAR(2220ft)
    1.30″ at SADDLE MOUNTAIN(3110ft)
    1.30″ at NORTH FORK(3060ft)
    1.29″ at SOUTH FORK(2257ft)
    1.12″ at RYE MOUNTAIN(2000ft)

  9. JohnD says:

    Mark–and b-t-w–you and Cliff Mass truly seem to be kindred spirits in your field–both exceptional skilled and creative craftsmen! Do you know him–e.g. hang out and collaborate?!

    • marinersfan85 says:

      I ran into Cliff and Mark at a bar one night. Mark was putting back several Mac N Jack’s and Cliff was downing bridgeports.

  10. GTS1K' says:

    Gracias, pero creo que es El Primero…

    …but I’ll take the other.

  11. JohnD says:

    Thanks so much Mark for your comprehensive renditions!
    Sooooo interesting and compelling always!

  12. GTS1K' says:

    El Primo?

%d bloggers like this: