Worst “La Niña” Snowpack on Mt. Hood So Far, But Big Snow Ahead!

6pm Tuesday

Remember the excitement in mid-November when heavy snow was dumping in the Cascades and ski areas opened up quickly?  Things have sure changed in two months.

Today we passed an important threshold on Mt. Hood that tells us this La Nina winter is not behaving as it “should”…at least so far.

  • The amount of “snow water” in the snow pack is 15.4″ at the Mt. Hood Test Site 

Basically this means in the past 35 years we haven’t made it this deep into the winter season with such a low snow pack while a La Nina winter was in progress.  The sensors were installed around 1980; so we have 13 other La Nina winters to compare this one to.  Notice all of Oregon is in pretty bad shape right now:

You can read more about what we typically see in La Nina winters by clicking up top on the banner that says WINTER 2017-18 THOUGHTS.  These are winters that are typically known for abundant mountain snowfall and plenty of lowland rain.   But this year we’ve had a mix of a) mild/rainy systems, b) very dry period in December, c) warmer & drier than normal the 1st half of January.

Now it HAS been close to this bad.  January 1996 & 2012 were close, but then things improved the 2nd half of winter.  In fact 1996 was a poster child for how quickly things can turn around in the mountains the 2nd half of winter.  There was only 1″ snow on the ground at Government Camp on January 15th.  A snowy & cool pattern arrived two days later.  In just two weeks, 94″ was on the ground at Goverment Camp!  I remember those amazing two weeks;  cross-country skiing at only the 2,000′ elevation east of Corbett on about 2 feet of snow!

So what’s ahead?  Some good news!  My gut feeling is we don’t have a crazy 1996-style 2 weeks ahead, but I do see quite a turnaround coming the next 10+ days.  A series of colder systems that should bring many feet of snow.  Take a look at the ECMWF ensembles showing a steady accumulation of rain in the lowlands the next two weeks:

First, we are still in the warm air for tomorrow, so I see one last very warm day.  It’ll be our 9th day at/above 50 this month.

We’ll be within a degree or two of our 59 degree record.  Thursday a cold front moves through the region, dropping snow levels down to around 3,000′ by afternoon.  After that point just about every system during the following week will bring snow to pass elevations and above.   Note the GFS would imply snow could briefly dip into the Coast Range Saturday and/or early next week:

I see maybe a foot of fresh snow on the ground for Saturday skiers, then a bunch more for both Sunday and Monday.  Here’s the ECMWF estimate of snowfall up around 5,000′ through late next week.  3-5 feet, that’s a nice turnaround isn’t it?  I have plans to ski NEXT weekend, the 25th-27th…timing seems to be working out right!

The GFS shows similar totals…maybe 3′ in the next 7 days up there:

Down in the lowlands I think you know what this means…lots of wet weather and temperatures should cool back to normal.  Maybe even a few degrees below normal next week.  At this point I don’t see a setup for lowland snow/ice, or even a real strong storm.  That’s one other thing that’s been missing this winter (a series of strong storms) but that doesn’t appear to change in the next week or two.

To summarize, the 2nd half of January should be wetter and cooler than the first half, with some nice snowfall in the Cascades.  Things are going back to normal the next two weeks!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


36 Responses to Worst “La Niña” Snowpack on Mt. Hood So Far, But Big Snow Ahead!

  1. JohnD says:

    Such a tranquil weather day today. I was off work and walked across the Tilikum Bridge. Calm winds, mild temps. Simply amazing for mid Jan.–especially in contrast to 2017. Later very interesting cloud formations ensued precursor to the deluge going on now. No doubt we all have interest in the evolution of the patterns in the Northland (sans Erik, etc.) We’ll see what happens. Still time for sure. And great to see that at least more Cascades snow should be coming soon!

  2. boydo3 says:

    Peaked out at 63 deg. here today.

  3. WEATHERDAN says:

    Altimeter has fallen 12 millibars in 2 hours. Peace

  4. Roland Derksen says:

    I might see some sleet or some kind of mixed precipitation here by the weekend. Hopefully…

  5. Anonymous says:

    We’re back to wind speeds gusting into the mid 50’s here in Corbett today…is that going to taper off tonight and into tomorrow? Was surprised it came back so quickly, it died off on Monday and yesterday and then came roaring back again last night. What’s up for the rest of the week?

  6. Ken in Wood Village says:

    Nahtalkin, I think you need to grow up. This is a form for people to speak their mind. All you are doing is a form a bullying. And you wonder why people get upset or take their own lives. It’s people like you that I can’t stand. Why don’t you crawl into your little hole and never come out again. Leave people alone.

  7. Is 1996 the year everything flooded in the spring?

  8. Nahtalkin says:

    Wow, is this for real? What a bunch of mumbo jumbo fake-a-loo weather crap. Trying to feebly analyze the wonders of nature and quantify it down to brass tacks, a real fools game we will someday soon realize. I see this just as another arrogant, spoiled and systematic symptom of a society thinking that somehow they are in control of the weather and climate. No wonder their children are addicted to their cell phones and eating detergent to shock their greedy parents.

    • W7ENK says:

      Oh look, someone’s…


      Calm your Teddies, tiddy!

      • Longview 400 ft says:

        MARK, before you go skiing (I hope you have a great weekend doing it) please remove Ted from the blog. He consistently does not get why people read and post on this blog by his own posts. The nonsense has to stop!!!

    • Registered Nerd says:

      For someone whose handle is essentially “not talking”, you talk way to much

      • Ken in Wood Village says:

        Very true, thank you 🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂

        • Registered Nerd says:

          You’re welcome 🤛🏼
          I don’t post much, but sometimes I just can’t help myself, especially when I have to read mr. “not talking” posts that make my eyes bleed

        • Ken in Wood Village says:

          I know what you mean. I have been reading this blog for a long time but haven’t posted anything until the last year. I know I’m no meteorologist but I love the weather and I like to be able to post what I think maybe happening with it. I don’t need people like him saying things to belittle people. 😉🤗☃❄

    • GTS1Kft says:

      Mentally unbalanced, he is…

    • pappoose in scappoose says:

      I’m beyond tired of this waste of my time.
      I’m in for takin out too much talkin!

  9. W7ENK says:

    Let me set the scene for you:

    January 1996… You can probably already see where I’m going with this.

    When I was a teenager, I used to feed my weather geek-ness by watching The Weather Channel on the weekends I spent at my Dad’s place, since he had cable. I specifically remember seeing something on the old world-wide satellite map that caught my attention.

    Early/mid January, a massive and historic Arctic outbreak happened in the Eastern 1/3 of Russia and NE Asia. Two weeks later, PNW gets a fairly decent Arctic outbreak.

    Now forgive me, as my memory of the specifics and exact timeline is a bit hazy, but IIRC this period was replete with heavy snow (more North and above 1,000 feet) and lots of freezing rain in the NW Oregon lowlands. Arctic air settles in, it’s cold with clear skies, sunshine and East winds, with a just bit of snow on the ground in PDX metro for the duration, which mostly sublimates as each day goes by. Ice storm at some point.

    Beginning February, suddenly an Atmospheric River sets up, temperatures soar to around (over?) 60 degrees in the Valley, freezing level shoots up over 10,000 feet, and PDX gets something like 13 inches of rain in 5 days. All that heavy snow that fell in the lower elevations (foothills, down to 1,000 ft. or so) melts off, fast. Rivers rise sharply. Willamette River comes within 1 inch of topping the sea wall at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Downtown Portland.

    Fast forward to January 2018.


    Russia sees minus 88.6 degrees F

    MOSCOW (AP) — Even thermometers can’t keep up with the plunging temperatures in Russia’s remote Yakutia region, which hit minus 67 degrees Celsius (minus 88.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in some areas Tuesday.

    Where the heck is “Russia’s remote Yakutia region?”

    Well… That would be approximately the same area that I observed that massive, historic Arctic outbreak on the old world-wide satellite maps on TWC back in mid-January 1996. Obviously, the sight of which has left a lasting impression on me.

    So, what does this mean? Absolutely nothing, really. Weather is rooted mostly in chaos. HOWEVER! We all like to think we have a handle on this stuff, and we trust our abilities to recognize patterns. That being said, if this particular pattern holds true, expect to see some sort of an Arctic outbreak event here in the PNW in about two weeks’ time. It will likely be replete with heavy snow (probably above 1000 feet), followed by clear skies and sunshine, cold daytime temps in PDX/WV, bitter East winds coming down the Gorge, and perhaps ending with a ZR event. All this, before the Pineapple Express kicks the freezing level up around the summit of Mt. Hood, unseasonably warm temperatures settle into the Valley with a metric @$$-ton of rain, which spawns the rapid and massive melting of all that low elevation snow, causing “historic” flooding.

    1996 redux.

    I’m calling it, right now.

    I hope I’m wrong.

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      I will say this, that is amazing. When you said 1996 in your earlier post the first thing came to mind was the flooding. I’m hoping we will see the first and second part of your story but not the last. I remember 1996 very well. I would prefer not to go through that again. Let’s hoping your 2/3 right 🙂

    • JohnD says:

      Fun stuff Erik. Like a lot of us, I remember 1996 well–including 11′ (0′ wind chills) as 60 mph wind gusts blew off the shingles of our new E. County home! I like your analysis–partially tongue in cheek or not. I’m totally down for a redux!

    • JohnD says:

      Also precursor Alaska bulletins are corroborating your analysis!

    • … i thought it was the fault of KAOS using the milwaukie dome of silence to perpetrate their evil plan for world domination… 😉

    • Nahtalkin says:

      You are as wrong as my “Mean Old Fish Wife” By the way does W stand for women…..You sure write as much as my mean old women talks! Erica? The given name Erika, or Erica, is a feminine form of Eric, deriving from the Old Norse name Eiríkr (or Eríkr in Eastern Scandinavia due to monophthongization). … The name is thus usually taken to mean “sole ruler, autocrat” or “eternal ruler, ever powerful”.

      • W7ENK says:

        Okay, the ad hominem approach will absolutely get you kicked off this forum, so…

        And in all fairness, why not wait until the second or so week of February to tell me I was wrong, ‘ey Tedward? Or do you think your crystal ball works better than mine?

        Again, calm your Teddies, tiddy!!

    • Jake in Gresham says:

      W7ENK I will say this, I was 6 years old in the Winter of 1996. All I remember was trying to walk and see and big people on the news later in the week frantically trying to sandbag the Wallimate river as it was pouring rain. So my perspective does not have that instinct. Your thoughts made me take a look at the GFS runs yesterday and what has happened today.

      Woah, I see what you’re saying man. The runs in the last 24 hours with the last two clearly show some very cold air in Alaska. Very cold. But the last two runs keep it into Northern Alaska and Canada. I think we can both agree the next 48 hours are going to be impressive or regressive. Jeez at the variables. Jeez. Someone in North America is getting a blizzard!

    • Diana F. says:

      Love this photo, which I had already seen, because I read The Siberian Times online! (Doesn’t every weather geek??) I’ve learned about some right tough cookies living in incredibly difficult weather!

    • GTS1Kft says:

      One never knows, does one….

      Oh, except Dr. Ted – doctor of Nahtalkin’ out his…..

  10. W7ENK says:

    Too little, too late. 😥

    But perhaps some hope (for all of us) on the horizon? 🤔

    I’ll elaborate in a bit, but I’ll warn you right now, it’s not all good news… 😱

  11. Ken in Wood Village says:

    I think we may have a chance of lowland snow coming at the end of this month. With this active pattern now, things can change really fast 🙂

  12. Paul D says:

    Music to my ears!

  13. JERAT416 says:

    Bring on the winter reboot!

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