Before We Look Ahead, A Look Back

October 23, 2016

Yesterday we had our annual Winter Weather Conference at OMSI.  I think it was the 24th year!  Wow, I’ve only missed one or two of those…I’m getting old.  It was great to meet a few of you there and each year it’s fun to reconnect with previous coworkers or old competitors too.

I don’t forecast, but do a weather recap of the past winter and any other big weather events through the year.  The entire presentation will be online, along with the others, within the next few days at the Oregon AMS website:

Here are a few of the graphics I used Saturday…this should stimulate some discussion:


What a mild winter it was!  Interesting to note that it pretty much acted like an El Nino winter (very mild with most action early on).   It did so in the mountains too.  You want to stay up high in El Nino years and that was the case this past winter.  In fact no El Nino winter since 1970 has produced above normal snow at Government Camp!


Here in the valleys we had very little snow of course.  Officially 1.1″.  Just one brief snow storm on the Sunday after the New Year.  Plus a close call a few days before that:


One could argue we’re due for a bigger year…or maybe we have another 1 or 2 duds still ahead the next two winters.


Regardless, snow in Portland is more rare than it was back in the 1940s/50s/60s.  You older folks probably can concur.  This decade is averaging the lowest so far, but it would only take one big winter to make that up.  It was a very warm winter


It’s been 20+ years since we’ve had a winter with well below normal temps.  There have been a few slightly cool ones, but you can see the gradual warm up and (almost) loss of occasional cold winters.  Keep in mind that this is a collection of all climate sites in this zone, not just the 2 or 3 that would be influenced by urban heat island effects.  I received an email a few weeks ago, it was circulating around a skeptic email list.  It claimed our winters have been getting COLDER the past 10, 12, or 15 (not sure which) years.  Well, the data they showed didn’t include the past two winters.  That’s called cherry-picking.  I’ve seen people do that to support all sorts of causes.  It’s annoying.


Late winter and spring this year was very warm, contributing to snow melt in the mountains about a month early.  Note the thick blue line just dropping like a rock in late April and May, far faster than normal up at 5,400′.

There you go.  The weather remains quite mild for at least the next 7-10 days with plenty of rain still to go.  I don’t see a stormy pattern through at least the first couple of days in November, although models are hinting at a stronger Pacific jet stream heading toward us about that time.  We’ll see.

At some point this week I’ll post a few thoughts about the upcoming winter.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen