Warm January & Early February; But Should You Unwrap Pipes & Change Tires?

7pm Sunday

This winter is not turning out to be a “typical” La Niña winter.  It’s been warmer than normal, snowpack has been well below normal in the mountains, and we’ve seen a real lack of storminess.  One other marker of a good La Niña winter is decent snow in the foothills, I’m talking 1,000′-2,000′ elevations.  Even that has been non-existent this year.  Other than the Christmas Eve snow (due to cool Gorge air), I’ve had only a 2″ snowfall once.

Each October I present a recap of the previous winter (Nov-early Mar) at the annual Oregon AMS Winter Weather Conference at OMSI.  As of now I see only 3 interesting events to cover:  1) Big east wind storm/episode in mid December in the Gorge  2) Christmas Eve/Day snow then freezing rain metro area and Gorge  3)  Big waves on Oregon Coast mid-January.   That’s it!  I can’t think of any other signficant storm.  No cold spells, significant flooding, etc…  And keep in mind anywhere south of Portland there was no Christmas weather fun.

About 10 days ago it looked like we might be “turning a corner” and heading into more typical La Nina conditions.  That would be lots more mountain snow, cooler weather systems, and about Looking back at the past week or so we’ve had a good run of rain and the best mountain snow since early December.

Folks, unfortunately it does not appear this was “the big change” we were looking for.

We’re headed back into an unusually warm pattern for at least the first week of February.  It’ll likely be a bit drier than normal as well.   This is disappointing not only for weather geeks like me, but skiers/snowboarders, and those of you that depend on snowpack to supply your summer water needs.

Snowpack DID increase substantially the last 10 days.  Timberline is up to an 80″ base, Meadows at 75″, and even Skibowl was finally able to open their Upper Bowl runs for the first time this season.  These numbers were higher before some rain and warm conditions returned this weekend.  Friday was the day to ski!  Even with the past 10 days of snow,  the snowpack across Oregon is far below normal.  Do you realize Willamette Pass Ski Area still hasn’t opened?  Mt. Ashland just barely opened this weekend.  There IS plenty of snowpack for the Columbia River this summer though, you can see the 100% or greater totals up in eastern Washington through Montana.  That’s good news.  But look at the terrible conditions once you get south of Mt. Hood, especially south of Santiam Pass.

Right now we have an upper-level ridge of high pressure temporarily centered overhead, you can see the anomaly (warm colors) centered over us.  That’s higher than normal “heights”

That produced some near-record highs and a very spring-like day today.

Salem hit 62, the 4th 60 degree day this month.  Only 2 other times has Salem had 4 or more days in the 60s since record-keeping began in the late 1800s.  It is our 3rd warmest January on record in Portland.  The one bit of good news is that the Tuesday/Wednesday cool upper-level trough is still on schedule to move overhead (mentioned in last Monday’s post), dropping snow down to around 2,000′.   So it’s fair to say we’ll get another 8-12″ in the Cascades.

But then an upper-level ridge becomes established either just to our west (late this week and weekend) or right over us (10-15 days from now).  That dries us out quite a bit, and sends much warmer air overhead once again.  Check out the slide show of the ECMWF:  It starts on Tuesday, then this Saturday the 3rd, Tuesday the 6th, Friday the 9th, and finally two weeks from tomorrow…Monday the 12th.   Dates are at the bottom right

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Looks like the ridge is a bit “dirty” which means likely not all dry, but lots of clouds and extremely weak (& warm) systems moving through.  Note it keeps the real cold air to the east.  The GFS model looks pretty much the same 16 days from now:

Now you may remember last week I mentioned it would only take a slight shift westward with that ridge to allow cold air in from the north.  That’s still a possibility and models have hinted at it over the past 3-4 days.  But as of this moment none of them are showing that scenario.


  1. There is no sign of a return to “real winter” conditions, no stormy weather or snow/ice/cold
  2. A very warm January is going to morph right into a warm start to February
  3. Cascade snowpack could take a hit later this week or beyond if we get a warm/wet system instead of a stronger ridge & sunshine.  The snow conditions last week were likely the best we’ll see (along with Tues/Wed this week) for the time being.
  4. If you have studded tires and pipes covered, DON’T TAKE THEM OFF.  That would be a poor choice right now.  Mine are staying on.  We can still easily get a cold arctic blast in the first two weeks of February, it’s even possible to have hard freezing the last two weeks of the month.  Example = February 2006:  18 in Salem and 22 in Portland under cold east wind around the 20th.

49 Responses to Warm January & Early February; But Should You Unwrap Pipes & Change Tires?

  1. Roland Derksen says:

    I want to get dry this coming month. We’re soaked here! (12 inches)

  2. Roland Derksen says:

    I’m waiting for a chance to dry out up here: We’ve had a lot of rain over the past 2 days, and my total for the month now is 12.0 inches. Just a little over 2 inches more and we could make it a record wet January!! Any bets that we’ll make it by tomorrow night?! 🙂

  3. Anonymous says:

    Bring on Spring woohooo

  4. W7ENK says:

    Alright folks, that’s it. After tonight’s little brush with 2,000′ snow levels, it’s all over.

    Mark, grab your fork, this bish is done!

    • Anonymous says:

      San Diego weather predicted in 15 yrs.

    • Anonymous says:

      Watching the Columbia river winter dive ( ) It’s definitely not like the Norwegians do. Great fund raiser. Love it.
      See you next year. Minnesota Kid

  5. garden seeds started
    pet fur snow substitution
    this isn’t winter

  6. Ken in Wood Village says:

    Really, what is with the GFS now. The 00Z GFS is going bonkers now!!!!

  7. JohnD says:

    Like a lot of us, I am a born and raised Western Oregonian. We have seen it all–weather wise–over the years for sure. But as a rule, if you like big league weather events on a frequent basis, you don’t live in our generally temperate marine climate. No doubt it is the “possibility”‘ of our events that sustain our intrigue! But I have to say too that my wife was born and raised in Massachusetts. And after experiencing year after year of heavy hitters while growing up, she loves our more tranquil climate! All things relative in weather as in life!

    • Our winter storms can be the equivalent of category 3 hurricanes in terms of peak winds and pressure minima. I’d call that “big league.” What we don’t get are the sort of temperature extremes the East and Midwest get.

      • JERAT416 says:

        Pressure I get, but unless you’re talking about storms like the Columbus Day Storm, they would need sustainaned winds iver 75mph to even be a category 1. Even in the gorge or coast, usually just gusts get to that. If you mean just like hurricanes are normal in some areas, our weather is normal then ok I understand. We generally don’t get the heat or cold extremes.

  8. Sprayandpay says:

    By the way: I think Mark’s winter fork broke against the last bad guy. It must’ve been rated only a 7 or a 9. A stinker weapon. Might as well go to a shrine and get something better.

  9. Sprayandpay says:

    Our climate changed between 2010 and 2013. The models especially the GFS which is the free government model relies on old analogs that are remotely distant and it’s being discussed on The Weather Forums dot come at least last night it was.

    There are many reasons from natural to man made at different levels it doesn’t take long to research just get off the boob tube and smartphones to do it. Log off your dumb games. They just take your money anyways.

    There could be an entire webpage about the reasons but most people here have low IQ and it would make their heads explode since it contradicts many doctored school teachings.

  10. Jake in Gresham says:

    Note to self, La Niña doesn’t mean a cold Winter. La Niña doesn’t even mean a Winter will happen. Drinks Soma kombucha with a confused expression.

  11. WEATHERDAN says:

    72 is the all time maximum for February. While I don’t see us hitting that this year who knows. It does look like a warm February however. And February is usually the month we transition from Winter to Spring. Peace.

  12. W7ENK says:

    I uncovered my hose bib last night and hooked everything back up. Any chance for a hard freeze is basically gone now, and a quick overnight frost will be of no consequence.

    Planting my first run of peas next weekend. If it is indeed too early, then oh well, I have plenty more seeds. Broccoli and cauliflower both survived the entire season uncovered, and my garlic is making a huge comeback, I’ve trimmed the greens twice already.

    • GTS1Kft says:

      Why do you trim the greens? My garlic is just popping up – and that’s in raised beds….

      • W7ENK says:

        I cook with them often. They’re like green onions, but much more flavorful (strong garlicky), and they just keep on growing back.

        • GTS1Kft says:

          Copy that – I’ve done the same with ones that have “gotten away” when digging the bulbs in June/July…

  13. JERAT416 says:

    Maybe if we all installed our window AC units, winter will come….

  14. oldwxwatcher says:

    Mark’s fork is probably getting an itchy trigger finger … er … tines.

    • Sprayandpay says:

      I think his broke like the weapons in the Breath Of The Wild. Must’ve been only a 7 or a 9.

  15. ocpaul says:

    I’m ready to take the faucet covers off. Maybe that will bring in some colder temps.

  16. Jeff Vifquain says:

    My prediction March and April will be colder than January and February, wow I’m really going out on a limb there, why doesn’t anyone know ” Why we are having such a mild winter” what is causing this to happen, why is this stubborn pacific ridge showing it’s ugly face over and over again, there must be a reason for it wouldn’t you think?

    • I’m not sure if I want it to snow in mid/late April like it did, when, 2009? March snow could be fun, though.

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      I know what you mean. That ridge keeps showing up in the West but nothing in the East. It’s been really frustrating we haven’t been able to have a winter but the East has had a lot of winter. I really hope this isn’t a prelude to a very warm summer either. 😦

  17. Tanis Leach says:

    It was 64 in Sherwood today. And La Niña seems to have moved to an unspecified location for the winter.

  18. lurkyloo says:

    Such an odd winter … don’t like it.

  19. Paul D says:

    Completely sucks

  20. W7ENK says:

    Worst La Niña, EVAR!! 😥

    BTW, I heard frogs down at the Minthorn Wetlands tonight.

    Winter is over in the lowlands.

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      Yes, it’s the WORST La Niña I have ever seen in my life time here and I have lived here all my life (50 years). I hope this won’t happen next winter.

    • boydo3 says:

      Yup, the frogs are singing Spring!

    • GTS1Kft says:

      Not just the lowlands – I couldn’t believe I was hearing frogs @ 5 am this morning.

      I’m going to unwrap my tires and change my pipes next weekend…

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      2000-2001 was almost the same, although mountain snowfall was better

      • W7ENK says:

        Hey, I saw sticking snow at Clackamas Community College at the top of the hill in OC (~750′) in both April and May that Spring — mid day! Big, huge, fat, sloppy, wet flakes, dumping down under intense showers, piling up on landscaped areas and cars faster than it could melt off.

        That was a weird Spring…

  21. Alohabb says:

    I never put my snow tried on. And I drive 1k miles per week for week. Never needed them on hwy 6 like I usually do.

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