Mid-Winter Doldrums; Split Flow and Drier Than Normal

9pm Tuesday

We’ve entered a New Year but the old and relatively slow Pacific Northwest weather pattern continues.

Much of December we saw upper-level ridging either overhead or off the west coast of North America.  Now the first week of January we are in a “Split-Flow” pattern where systems stretch apart as the move toward the West Coast.   Notice you see it in the forecast for Thursday PM and again next Tuesday from the ECMWF model:

The net effect is the same we saw in December…drier than normal plus a mild pattern in the mountains and coastline.

The past two days it’s been mild/warm in the mountains but chilly in the valleys as an inversion sets up.  It was just as warm at Timberline as Troutdale today.

With splitty flow expect weak Pacific systems over the next week.  Note though that the ECMWF ensembles give us about average rainfall over the next 10 days.


Somewhere around 2″ in the Willamette Valley is pretty typical for a 10 day stretch in January.  What we DON’T see is a setup for low elevation snow/ice, flooding, or a windstorm.

We are about halfway through our “storm season” west of the Cascades, so there is PLENTY of time for things to turn around.  But it sure doesn’t seem like a La Nina winter so far does it?   In 2013-2014 big snow in the mountains and regular stormy/wet weather didn’t show up until February.  That wasn’t a La Nina winter, but close, a “cold neutral” year.  We’ll see what shows up the next few weeks.

In the short-term we have a raging east wind this evening in the Gorge.  Crown Point gusted to 92 mph today and Corbett up to 79.  Most winters that’s about the highest it gets in either location.  That strong wind will continue through Friday morning, then back off dramatically later Friday.  Today was notable since at least some of the wind made it deep into the metro area.  Notice the 30-40 mph gusts in the West Hills and down into northern Clackamas county too.

Wind Metro Peak Gusts East Wind

There is a decent chance we see freezing rain in the Columbia River Gorge either Thursday morning or Friday as moisture rides over the cold air coming through the Gorge.  It will be too “warm” for freezing rain just about everywhere else west of the Cascades.  The only possibility would be overnight cooling and clear skies followed by sprinkles at sunrise.  The GFS says that could happen Thursday AM, ECMWF says no.  We’ll keep an eye on it.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


48 Responses to Mid-Winter Doldrums; Split Flow and Drier Than Normal

  1. JERAT416 says:

    I’ll bet in a couple weeks, Mark will dust off the fork….

  2. W7ENK says:

    A flashback to 7 years ago, possibly one if the biggest, most disappointing busts of the last decade:

    January 7, 2011

    Major snowstorms used to be a regular occurrence in Portland. The all time record snowfall is something like 64 inches in one winter, but amounts over 30 inches happened once or twice per decade for who knows how long…The Willamette and Columbia Rivers used to freeze over regularly too, but it’s been over 50, almost 60 years now since the last time that happened.

    If things play out the way the models were indicating yesterday and today, Portland could see that again starting as early as tomorrow and easily lasting well into and beyond next weekend. When all is said and done, 30 to 40 inches of snow before the end of the month is not out of the question. More likely, we’ll see periods of snow AND freezing rain over the next week – much like December 2008 – before we warm back up and temperatures moderate. What lies beyond that could be of concern, too. Possibly shaping up much like 1996 with a “Pineapple Express” sweeping through. Remember when the Willamette River came within inches of jumping the seawall and flooding into Downtown Portland? Yeah… that’s a real possibility, too. However, that’s a ways out, and uncertain. What’s not so uncertain is the snow, beginning in 24 to 48 hours. That’s pretty much in the bag.

    So here’s basically what’s setting up, in a nut shell. This may go over your head, but just bear with me…

    The Short-, Mid-, and Long-range models are all pretty much in agreement now that a massive Omega Block, or blocking ridge of High pressure (biggest and strongest seen in decades) is setting up over the Pacific and Alaska at around 150W, which is pointing the Polar Jet pretty much straight into the PNW bringing really cold air down from Canada, at the same time the Pacific Jet, which is normally what drives our weather here in the wintertime, undercuts that blocking ridge which ends up throwing a TON of moisture into that cold air, and *BAM!* Lots and lots of snow, or ice! Either way, moisture + arctic air… you get the picture.

    Now, the thing of it is, once an Omega Block like this sets up, they tend to stick around for weeks. Europe has been getting slammed with tons of record breaking snow and cold this winter, as has the Eastern 2/3 of the US. That’s because of a persistent Omega Block that set up over Greenland and didn’t budge for a month and a half. Well, it’s leaving now, and the patterns are switching, so it looks like now may be our turn.

    Of course, this *IS* the Pacific Northwest after all, and the whole thing could flop. I really hope it doesn’t!

    Portland ended up with a light dusting of snow that only stuck to grass and barkdust. Roadways remained wet, and the whole thing was over with by the first afternoon, as the “arctic” air was only transitory.

    • JohnD says:

      Yep. Bustorama a huge part of the game since the biggy of 1950–OK yeah, 1968, 2008 and a few lesser moments in between! ‘Will never give up hope though for a return from our marginal winter climate to one of historical not “if” but “when”! And trust me—as a lifelong W. Oregonian with decades under my belt, it is never easy watching historic events transpire everywhere nationally but here. In any event, good stuff Erik. ‘Remember it well. And here’s to the rest of our winter this year. Haven’t thrown in the towel completely yet. And the hint on Christmas Eve was fun as a reminder—along with memories of last January!

    • Nahtalkin says:

      Boo…..Hoo…..it is the Pacific Northwest as we all know, unreal to hope or expect something different. Have a nice day boys!

      • GTS1Kft says:

        Hey Former Ted,

        For an old fart, you certainly have a great grasp of a ten year old’s social skills…

        …and other juvenile attributes.

        Isn’t it time to walk the dog by the river?

  3. Jason Hougak says:

    Pattern change looks to occur around Jan. 16th. Both GFS and ECMWF models are coming into agreement.

  4. Ken in Wood Village says:

    Hmm, the 00Z GFS puts a 978mb low just to our North on the 18th. I don’t think it will happen but it’s interesting. Maybe we have turned the corner and now we will start having more active weather now 🙂

  5. Freezing level down to 3,000 feet here this morning. Was over 7,000 yesterday morning.

  6. Nahtalkin says:

    Now that we are in the doldrums of winter and not much going on the weather department. How-a-bout this…..The masses of illiterate minions voted in a illiterate moron for commander in chief, and now the other half is shelling out $26 a pop to buy a book telling them what a idiot the half baked clown really is. Ain’t that something? Only in the good old USA…..

  7. Jason Hougak says:

    GFS models have all been pointing to a much cooler snowpack building pattern setting up after Martin Luther King Day. The ECMWF is showing a change in the overall pattern.

  8. Jason Hougak says:

    Looks like signs of the stubborn Pacific ridge are breaking down. ECMWF showing heights lower over Pacific and rising over Central Canada. The GFS showing also a breaking down of the ridge. This appears to be happening late next week.

  9. Sprayandpay says:

    BTW: 1 Pacific redwood has a degree in meteorology and it’s almost like the old days when weather forecasts actually showed stuff not cartoon junk of today. The comments are as interesting if not more then the video and he explains himself when asked.

    He has videos since 2012 almost daily long before I found him as I don’t like dumbcasts by modern Tee Vee.

  10. Sprayandpay says:

    As long as they keep using frequencies to blast away the low pressure we are not going to change. Here is what the actual patterns look like. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mN8s3Ytmnw Not sure if links are allowed and remember nature DOES NOT produce right angles.

    • Jake in Gresham says:

      Why would the government ruin the commute of millions of taxpayers? Also, that is not a right angle. Look at the screen he’s using. The resolution is entirely making what he’s looking at because it tries to show the entire East coast.

      My uncle swears by chem. trails. and other weather patterns he deems man-made. I’ve tried to explain the science. In one ear out the other. Take a course audited at college. Honestly, there are textbooks thicker than your forearm on the matter.

  11. Jeff Vifquain says:

    follow the emergence of the MJO and the possible change in circulation pattern late in january, ridging in the east and a trough building for the west coast, all depends on the development of the MJO = possible pattern change….let’s hope

  12. Jake in Gresham says:

    Looks like tomorrow is going to be one proper commute for most.

    Blustery East wind of 10 to 20MPH with rain for I-205 area. Going to be a white knuckle day for the new folks just moved here from the the South. Stay safe everyone. Yawn

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      LOL, that’s funny…hehe. I do see one thing in the model runs and that is we may finally get into a wetter pattern sometime next week (probably the end of the week). I don’t see anything cold but if we start getting into a more active pattern maybe we could get lucky and the cold may come to us finally. 🙂

  13. Andy says:

    Yes… it may last until the end of the month. Maybe the only hope is February? Long range looks bad for the NW…hoping for a major change and the long range is wrong. We definitely need the snow in the mountains.

  14. Roland Derksen says:

    Seems like a typically boring January around here: fog, clouds, no wind. Someone please tell me this isn’t going to last all month!

  15. F40 Fan says:

    The edge of the cliff is getting crowded…

  16. Ken in Wood Village says:

    I went up to Crown Point today. Even though the wind gauge said 85 mph at the time I was there the wind had to be 100. I even had a hard time trying to get back to my car. A police officer was watching the area for awhile and when he saw I was having a difficult time trying to get to my car, he drove up asking if I needed help…lol. I said I was good…hehe. I was able to make it back but the winds were very intense…lol

    • lurkyloo says:

      Damn, dude!

    • Diana F. says:

      Geeze glad you’re ok, yah crazy nut! What the heck possessed you to try an unintentional-hang-gliding-via-puffer-jacket trick up there in the Gorge? Aw, I guess I do understand the need to at least try to experience some interesting weather these days, as we watch with some envy for some of the cold and snowy weather our fellow citizens deal with during this cold snap, pretty much everywhere but here.
      **Frankly, all I have to do is THINK about standing up at some of the Gorge view points we used to hang out as kids, and I get woozy and then a little unstable! Such idiots back then, “oh, isn’t it funny to push each other, around the edge of a trillion foot gorge-cliff, just to see what happens”? Uhhhhh, NO that’s not funny!
      Now, as we all head towards our twilight years, lol, we may appear unsteady at times when both outdoors and indoors, when hiking or even grocery shopping! Personally I can’t walk a straight line, wind, or no wind, alcohol or no alcohol–these days alcohol gives me immediate narcolepsy.

      Stay safe wind walkers!

      • Ken in Wood Village says:

        I like what you said Diana, I wanted to feel what a hurricane feels like without the rain or the debris. I’m guessing some of the wind was up to 100 mph which would be a Cat. 2 hurricane. When I was standing in the wind, there was a few times I had to squat low and put my hands on my knees to stay up. Now I can say I know what people go through on the East Coast during a hurricane.

        Going to your comment about envy, I have been watching The Weather Channel about that storm on the East Coast, I am very jealous because we really haven’t seen a winter here. I just hope things change soon. We are running out of time 😦

  17. Nahtalkin says:

    What a beautiful, invigorating walk with the dog down by the river. So amazing to have this exhilarating weather this time of year….keep it coming! Sure wakes a person up and makes an old man feel alive!

  18. ocpaul says:

    Objects in motion tend to stay in motion, objects at rest tend to stay at rest. Perhaps some models will tease at valley snow, but they will fizzle. Mountain snow to begin in March. That’s what my crystal ball says. (should have gotten a snow globe)

  19. WEATHERDAN says:

    Looking out through the 19th it looks warmer and drier than normal. Even the frigid East is looking warmer though still a bit cold. We have a realistic chance of lowland snow for about the next 5 weeks. This wasn’t the Winter I wanted. I like some snow in the valley each Winter after all. But it is the Winter we are stuck with. And yes our weather pattern could change on a dime. But if it doesn’t change then what I think we have is a warm early Spring and a hot Summer. Maybe we get another cold Winter next year. We shall see. Peace..

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      LOL, that is what I was thinking too. I swear we are in a El Niño winter.

      I was up at Crown Point Sunday and Monday. Monday’s winds were really gusty. The gauge said 80 mph but I think some of the gusts were pushing at least 90.

      I hope things change soon. I really like to have a good winter out of this season.

    • Jason Hougak says:

      That’s funny Eric, I was just going to put that😆
      YAWN #2

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