Spring Equinox Today & Showers Return

8am Monday…

What a beautiful Sunday it was with bright sunshine and comfortable afternoon temps.  That was only our 5th dry day in Portland this month, a month in which our rainfall is running almost double the normal total through the first 20 days of the month.

What really sticks out to me is how slowly plants/grasses/trees are coming alive this year, especially in contrast to the last two very warm late winter/early spring periods.  It’s obvious why:

Wow, that January cold departure of nearly 8 degrees is one of the largest, or THE largest, of my career here.  It was a cold month!  But combine the entire 3 month winter period and it was the coldest winter in Portland since I was 10 years old.  THAT explains why vegetation is so slow to get going this year.  March has been close to normal…just slightly below.

A few hours ago the Vernal, or Spring, Equinox occurred.  That means the sun is now halfway between its winter low and summer high position.  Yep, if you consider only incoming energy from the sun, we’re halfway to “summer heat”.  But of course it takes time for the land/oceans/atmosphere to warm so the seasons lag a bit behind.  Here in Portland, on average we tend to see warmest temps about 6 weeks after the summer solstice but only about 2 weeks after the winter solstice.

Note that I use the phrase “astronomical spring”.  That’s one thing that drives me nuts…I don’t know how the “start of spring” ever became associated with this date.  It’s pretty obvious in most temperate climates that the “season” begins well before the solstices/equinoxes.  In meteorology we stick to weather only so we consider all of March a spring month.  Yes, it can snow in a spring month, just as it can be hot in a fall month.  But we consider spring those 3 months between winter and summer.

It’s also quite obvious that the wet pattern is going to continue for a while longer, into the beginning of Oregon’s Spring Break this coming weekend.  Sorry kids!

By the way, while putting together a winter recap for our local AMS chapter meeting tonight I stumbled across this picture.   I snapped it at the end of the last Gorge ice storm of the season (February 9th) when I happened to be at home.  Click on the picture and take a very close look.  At that point I had just under 1/2″ ice on trees/objects and the temperature had climbed to around 33 degrees.

Do you see the green trees in the distance at the top of the clearcut maybe 1/2 mile away at most?  There is no ice just 200-400′ higher in elevation!  The cold layer of air in the Gorge was getting thinner and thinner and 50 degree air was over the top of that for many hours before this time.    You’re looking through a freezing layer of air stuck in a small valley into the very mild air overhead!  That pic should go in a meteorology textbook (minus last summer’s pool).  Within an hour after I took that picture the southerly wind punched through and all the ice was off the trees in a half hour or less.  Lots of noise!  Within a few days beyond that time (around Valentine’s Day) all the ice/snow was finally off my driveway for the first time in 5 weeks.

Today will be showery, although I don’t think it’ll be real wet.  A gusty east wind is blowing through the Gorge too, but at least it’s way to warm to produce freezing rain this time.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

22 Responses to Spring Equinox Today & Showers Return

  1. Love the cold pool pic.

    Bend, 1985 or so, I remember watching the snow start falling out of the trees near the top of the west hills. It was about 5f and very little wind. It was like a wave. Within a couple of minutes a rush of warm air blew in and the temp jumped to the mid 40’s in a matter of minutes. Surreal.

  2. WEATHERDAN says:

    62 and Partly sunny his afternoon. Very nice Spring day. Starting to feel more like Spring. Less than 10 days until MLB. Peace.

    • Joshua Downtown PDX says:

      Check out that action developing to your SW. Looking juicy. Somebody is going to get hammered.

  3. Garron 1/3 of a mile from Hillsboro Airport says:

    Thanks Mark, this is another fascinating post, and an amazing picture! Today looks like it might have the potential to be an active day. We are getting a really good break in the clouds to provide the lift we need for thunder storms, and the atmosphere appears to be just right at the same time! Places in the central valleys of California are seeing tornado(s), and sever thunder storms!

  4. WWM says:

    Mark, is that looking towards Pepper Mt. in the background? I figured it might be as ice on farther up larch was non existent with that round.

  5. Jason Hougak says:

    One of our coldest winters in quite awhile. Was surprised to find a check from PGE for almost $13.00 because of our continued low energy use. Family of 4 with energy bills ranging from upper $50’s to lower $70’s I guess is quite uncommon. I’ve had several customers say their energy bill has been brutal this winter with some paying over $600 a month for power. I still am finding people with heaters going in their wellhouse since the cold. You have to figure a 1500 watt heater running 24/7 for no reason other than keep the mice warm is an extremely huge waste of energy. Just happy to have some kick back I was not expecting. It’s amazing how easy it is to lower utility costs… I don’t even have solar panels. I thought about it but you can’t make money by producing excess energy and if the power grid goes down then so does you panel array. So much for living totally off the grid. Owe well, I have an old fashion hand pump for the well just incase.

  6. Boydo3 N. Albany says:

    All those nice springy feel good graphics should be replaced with a big wet frown. 😦 😦 Maybe I just got used to the nice spring weather of the last couple years but my feelings about this spring are drooping like my daffodils…

  7. Boring 550' says:

    Felt weird to have east wind today. On a side note, the snowpack is depleting very quickly in eastern Oregon. Malheur and Owyhee basins are now below normal and falling fast. you can see it for yourself here:

  8. muxpux (Longview) says:

    Mark, you may have noticed on the facebook group, I love to timelapse. I would love to timelapse events like this. That show how these microclimates work. I think it would be pretty cool.

  9. Paul D says:

    So glad we didn’t have a winter repeat of the past two years. I was getting really grumpy mowing my lawn in February! It needs mowing now, but it’s a marsh, so it’ll just have to wait for a couple dry days in a row – maybe next month? 🙂

  10. Benjamin (West Salem) says:

    Thanks like always for the update!! It’s for the same reason that I get bothered when people are surprised by snow in the end of November or the beginning of December because it’s “not even winter yet” according to the calendar. Or some of the same people announce at the start of February that we still have 2 months of winter to go.

  11. JJ78259 says:

    We have transitioned into full on Weather Dan Weather at least 85 degrees 7 out of the next 10 days. I feel a couple of cannon balls into the pool in about an hour 😎

  12. Roland Derksen says:

    29.7F for a minimum this morning-that’s my lowest temperature of the month to date, despite being the first day of spring. Yes, the slow start of the trees and flowers are noticeable to me as well. But things can change quickly: I recall March 2009 being cool, and seeing snow mixed with rain the first 2 days of the April that followed. However, after that it warmed up pretty fast here. Perhaps a similar situation will happen this year.

  13. Lee Wilson says:

    We how ever have patches of blue skies..Solar is nearly keeping up …
    But hey..it’s free power…

  14. Lee Wilson says:

    I think you have a few Druids to thank for the “Solstices”.
    I think it is either a pagan ritual or something else.
    Just a guess though..so I might be wrong.

  15. Donaleen Kohn says:

    You promised the East wind was gone for 8 months and here it is back. Make it go away!

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      It always comes back occasionally in March. But one or two days out of the entire month of March is much less than normal

    • Lee Wilson says:

      Ouch…we cut the breaker to our furnace…it costs to much for us to run ..so were using 2 smaller heaters and a heat wave..trust me…it costs a.lot less to use them lol.

      Hope you get the thing fixed..Mom had a heck of a time with the company that installed her furnace.

      The new element was bad right from the start..

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