Another Low Snow Year In The Cascades

7pm Thursday…

I feel like we’ve done this before; here we are in mid-January and I’m blogging about low snowpack in the Cascades.

First, we have a great three day MLK weekend coming up for skiers/snowboarders.  There is plenty of snow for everyone:


And the only rain should be downpours for night skiing Friday night as a warm front moves over the Cascades.  Avoid that time; the rest of the weekend should be just fine.

snow report 3 days

That’s the good news.  The bad news? “Snow Water Equivalent” in the Cascades doesn’t look so great.

snowpack oregon plus facts

The lack of storminess and warmer-than-average temps has allowed the snowpack (as a percent of average) to drop this month.  Only SE Oregon is in good shape at this point.

It’s ANOTHER low snow year in the Cascades.  I just checked Mud Ridge, at 4,100′ just SE of Government Camp.  This station has seen below average snow water in mid-January 8 out of the past 10 winters!  Only 1 has been above average, and one right at average.  So you aren’t crazy thinking that we haven’t heard about big Cascade snow years lately.  What’s most interesting to me is the total lack of lower Cascade snowfall.  Again this year we’ve rarely seen any snow below 2,500′.  Way down in the foothills at 1,000′, I haven’t seen snow at my home yet this season.  First time that has happened since I moved there in 2004.

So no, this isn’t a horrific snow season like 1991-1992 or 2004-2005, or 2014-2015, but we’re limping along once again.  I see maybe a foot or so at Government Camp coming up Sunday and early Monday, but then mainly dry or even some rain in the mountains the rest of next week.  Anecdotally it seems to me we are getting more ridging the past 10 years than in the past, often centered somewhere near the coastline.

Speaking of…models still show strong upper-level ridging much of these next two weeks.  Check out the ECMWF run showing ridging this next week, and the week following:

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And you can see the below-average precipitation forecast for the entire West Coast.  California will be drying out along with the Pacific Northwest.  If these maps are correct, January will go out mild and dry.

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Tomorrow will be a soaker once we get past about 9am.  A warm front with lots of moisture throws steady rain our way all afternoon and evening.  But Saturday is an “outdoor day” since a stationary front sits across southern Oregon.  Most likely the NW tip of Oregon and SW Washington remain dry during the daylight hours.

Enjoy your weekend!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

69 Responses to Another Low Snow Year In The Cascades

  1. Bear says:

    What a beautiful winter I have experienced this year, so many awesome sunrises over Mt. Hood, so many days I’ve been able to work outside on the farm, in all my many years this has to be the best winters with glorious weather I’ve ever experienced, and I am one of few that has worked outside all of my life.

    • GTS1Kft says:

      You’re also one of the few recurring nightmares on the blog, Robert Theodore Berry.

      Did someone turn over the rock you were under?
      Farmer Ted has reinfested the blog

  2. Larry says:

    GFS model is giving us some colder temperatures at the end the of the month and into early February as the cold blob from Eastern Canada splits and some of that cold air mass goes into Western Canada (according to the model). ECMWF and CMC models both giving a weakened high pressure off the coast of California due to incoming storms around January 31st. Most of the models are leading in the same direction the GFS model is, (except the NAVGEM model). Potential cold weather coming in early February? Hope so. So far this winter has been a real dud. Maybe we’ll get another snow surprise like we did in February of last year. Until then, enjoy the mild weather!

  3. runrain says:

    Sun sets after 5pm now.

  4. runrain says:

    Temps in the 60’s at the coast next weekend. Surf’s up!

  5. W7ENK says:

    Something interesting to note:

    PNA looks to go Negative sometime in the next few days, will have to see what effect that has on upcoming patterns, if any.

  6. 18Z OP looking good at hour 264 (if you like cold & snow). Only 11 days to go… 😉

  7. W7ENK says:

    For anyone who watched the eclipse last night – either in person or via live stream, did anyone else notice the little bright flash on the surface? Far lower-left quadrant, about 3/4 from center to the horizon, South of Mare Humorum, SW of Mare Nubium, W or WNW of Tycho. It was nearly instantaneous, lasted only one frame in the live videos, but it can be seen on multiple live streams, from all different locations around the world, at the same time. Also seen by naked eye observers and amateur astronomers.


    Possible impact?

  8. Andy says:

    The 12Z was cold at the end of the month with what looked like less moisture when the coldest air arrives. Looks real cold in western Canada, probably the coldest of the winter. Lets hope more of that cold heads south.

    • rmlounsbury says:

      The 12Z yesterday showed that. Today’s 12Z is cold rain with onshore flow for the beginning of February.

  9. Roland Derksen says:

    I was looking back at my records for January snowstorms; I had a big one here in 1982 on January 21-22; about 11 inches of heavy wet snow then. Since 1982, other comparable snowfalls for this month have been few and far between.

  10. rmlounsbury says:

    I’d keep hanging onto those grains of salt… Only the GFS Operational is going for an arctic ride. Though a few members are wanting to along for a ride now.

    At least it is something to watch. More so than anything else this winter thus far.

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      I think we can agree that something will happen at the end of the month into February. What we will see is up in the air right now but when we get closer we will know more.

      One thing I am liking is the fact the GFS keeps showing it. The Euro is trying to grab onto what the GFS is showing but it’s having a little difficult time with it. Again, when we get closer the Euro will hopefully come into better agreement (hopefully what the GFS is showing).

      The 06Z GFS was a nice run, let’s hope the 12Z GFS is even better 🙂

      • W7ENK says:

        I’m telling you, it’s a statistical impossibility. It does not snow in Portland on January 31st.

        • Ken in Wood Village says:

          LOL, I didn’t say it would…hehe. Plus, I don’t know what it will do that day but something will happen at the end of the month into February.

          The 12Z GFS is way different than the 06Z GFS now. I think it’s just a little wobble and hoping it will change the next run. Let’s see what the 12Z Euro will bring 🙂

      • rmlounsbury says:

        Well the 12Z GFS Operational was just cold rain.

        I suspect the GFS is having a hard time with the regime change and where the high pressure is going to set up when it builds in. The operational has flip-flopped from bone chilling cold & snow to sunny & mild and then cold rain.

        The GFS ensembles don’t support any significant cold nor does the EURO. So until we see ensemble members follow and/or the EURO I’ll remain a skeptic.

        We have seen plenty of situations where the GFS Op leads the rest of the models but they are the exceptiona nd not the rule.

        I do hope it ends up the GFS picked up on something and we get a cold blast with some snow though.

        • Ken in Wood Village says:

          I agree with you. I keep saying that we will see a change in the weather around the end of the month and the start of February.

          What will happen, don’t know yet. Why? Because the models are all over the place. We will have a better understanding when we get about 5 to 7 days out.

          What I do like is how the models keep showing something which to me is a trend. It’s the best showing of cold air all winter long. Maybe this could be a turning point to cooler/colder weather. We could always hope 🙂

        • W7ENK says:

          Please don’t be too disappointed when all that marvelous cold air gets shunted down the back side of the Rockies and dumps into the Eastern 2/3 of the country. I’ve actually lost count of how many times I’ve watched that happen since the early 1990s.

        • Joshua Lake Oswego says:

          Yep. Southern Florida will see more artic air than we will this winter.

    • Watch, pattern will be conducive for snow, except that wont be until late March. By then it will be too warm.

  11. Jason Hougak says:

    It’s mid January. How many of us remember a mild January just to end up being hit by a colder February. January 1989 was mild and then came February arctic blast. Unfortunate it was cold and dry but bone chilling cold nonetheless.

  12. Well, i guess i am thankful for one thing about this winter.

  13. Ken in Wood Village says:

    I know the 12Z GFS isn’t done but I wanted to say something about it. Yes, it is awesome after hour 240 which is the end of the month. I am going to say that something will happen around the 30th. Not sure what yet but I’m hoping it will be a cold snap with maybe snow.

    The GFS has been consistent with showing something around the 30th for the past few days. Something is going to happen, but what is the question. The 12Z GFS today looks like it will be a cold snap. Hopefully this will happen. I have been getting the weather blues because the lack of wintery weather.

    Just saying, peace 🙂

    • JohnD says:

      ‘Hope you are right Ken and that the models are onto something that will verify. Climbing the walls with weather boredom and frustration.

      • Ken in Wood Village says:

        I hope so to John. I see the 12Z Euro is trying to catch onto what the GFS is showing. It may take a couple of days to actually know what will happen at the end of the month. I will cross my fingers and toes for hoping for some kind of wintery weather 🙂

    • Andy says:

      I also noticed the same thing. Hopefully the trend continues and the climate prediction models are garbage. I wonder if more of are cold and snow is later in the season than 20 years ago?

  14. K says:

    And I thought last winter was bad!

    Name at least three significant events this winter and I’ll give you a virtual cookie. Revitalize my faith in the 2018-2019 season!

  15. Roland Derksen says:

    It’s too early yet to stick a fork in this supposed winter- I know it’s mild and flowers are popping up, but watch it- all it takes is one snowy day in February…

    • Jake in Gresham says:

      It has been a fork in it attitude for me all Winter. I have not worn my long johns once. Not once.

      I’ve deiced my car I think twice. I sleep like I do in Summer (you guessed it).

      I will say the last week has been chilly and rainy. But cold this Winter? Nowhere to be found. I am bored out of meh mind (Fall leave meh – ready for Spring):

  16. Steve Miller says:

    A cool and wet spring/summer will erase this pain for me and get me to next winter in much better spirits.

    • Kyle says:

      Can’t under the new climate. The models are worthless only because that’s what a model is. A model predicts things based on the past. They take data from what the climate was like in the 1930s or 50s and think that the earth will continue that.

      The earth is in a much different phase now. It was changing since back then which the models compile the data. Now it’s changed so we have inappropriate models.

      Guess what results we will get out of inappropriate models?

      • Ashley Watson says:

        Man you hit the nail on the head man. That makes total sense. I don’t understand why lay people like us can figure that out but why the bafoons who operate these models and forecast the weather don’t. By the way Mark is not one of those bafoons

        • I have to agree, on that theory, we had a windstorm when one was not predicted, and just recently a thunderstorm that came through.., well the night before.
          Its getting to the point where the only thing to do isntonrecord the weather if one can capture it and post it as proof positive of what is happening. Hopefully doing so will give data and accounting of what is really happening..
          That unpredicted windstorm did a lot of damage.
          It is sad to be questioned.

          So from now on, if something unpredicted occurs, i will be posting a visldeo.

      • boydo3 says:

        And the Earth is flat.

    • Kyle says:

      The models when compiling years assumes “Oh it will be most like year X or year Y not realizing the earth was in a totally different state of flux back then.

      The new warmth we have had isn’t even inputed so without even that we have no hope. The models will continue to show “Artic Air” where there is none. You cannot have Artic air without ice. You can’t have something for nothing.

  17. Reporting in from Castle Rock Washington,
    We just had thunder and 8t was loud. So far a single event.

  18. Roland Derksen says:

    Out of the past 44 years of observations, Januarys (at least at my place) have had the lowest monthly mean temperature for the winter just 17 times: That’s less than 40% , and the way this one is going it won’t be the 18th. So perhaps we should no longer call it a winter month? 🙂

  19. W7ENK says:

    ECMWF Weekly maps are out, and they look like absolute garbage.

    Say goodbye, Winter is over. Time to stick a fork in it!

  20. W7ENK says:

    Winters like this are ridiculous, and they’re becoming the norm.
    It’s disgusting.

    • It’s nothing that wasn’t within the realm of expectations, given the current ENSO status.

      • Joshua Lake Oswego says:

        This overall average of this winter could have been assumed or expected, but the complete lack of individual weather events or extremes actually happening or having the potential to happen is what makes this winter such a dud.

        Nothing remotely close to frozen precipitation. Zero high temps below 40. Zero hard freezes. PDX has only dropped below 32 twice. Briefly and barely at that. No big rain storms. A few breezy and damp days is the best we can muster.

        • Ken in Wood Village says:

          I agree Joshua. I remember always looking forward to winter time when I was a kid. I remember the major silver thaw in 1979. I woke up and looked outside and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I saw icicles coming down from the gutters all the way down to the ground. Portland metro area use to have some kind of wintery precipitation every year. Don’t get me wrong, there have been a couple of years were we didn’t get anything but it was few and far between. Now you can’t say that anymore. 😦

      • W7ENK says:

        True Rubus, however that doesn’t lessen the sting any.

    • Anonymous says:


    • GTS1Kft says:

      at least it’s raining…

      …all night.

      • GTS1Kft says:

        …or does the dome stop that, too?

        I find it better than not for sleeping purposes, at least.

  21. alohabb says:

    I have a Erie feeling about a bad fire season coming up this year.

    • W7ENK says:

      Actually, it may not be too bad.

      Low snowpack = little new Springtime growth = not as much fuel to burn.

      This could end up a 2010-2011 redux, with a crappy Winter leading into a cool/wet Spring and Summer, too.

      To many variables for anyone to say without a doubt.

      • Kyle says:

        The oceans were in a much cooler state back then. LOTS of blues. The ENSO was different too. It’s like comparing apples to oranges.

  22. Emmanuel says:

    My prediction this will end as a esnso winter and we get a couple inches of snow late February wrapping up this winter. But Look out for next year with solar minimum in full swing and a few other things in place I’m predicting record snow and cold hitting the northwest.

  23. Ken in Wood Village says:

    You should just say it Mark, DROUGHT. This winter is just sad. The models are running like it’s summer time. So much for hoping for cold and snowy weather. Time to put a fork in winter (what winter we had).

    • Mike says:

      Someone please correct me if I am wrong…… would love it someone could because I cannot help feeling things are slowly turning a downward spiral. Hate to feel that way, but I can’t help thinking we are insulating the earth from needed cold temperatures of outer space with a blanket of pollution over the earth.

      It is the action of cold vs warm that energizes our storms and I see less and less impact of them as the years go by.

  24. ocpaul says:

    ‘Average weather’ is based on a scant 150 years of data. There is no ‘normal’ weather. Climate always evolves and changes. This year’s blip, and last years, and the year before that are just anecdotal changes. ‘Normal weather’ is true for that moment of that day, All weather is normal weather really.

    • Kyle says:

      But when you have multiple years in a row of the same effect to the point you feel like your stuck in ground hog day forever then things have greatly shifted. You can’t deny it unless you are living in a barn your whole life.

  25. We had an unexpected high wind event today.
    No alerts, was pow..and it was here.

    • W7ENK says:

      Just you, and a faulty anemometer at the airport, apparently. No one else seemed to have a “high wind event.”

      • Yeah, have you heard a wind turbing ramp up in speed? Hint…sounds like a tail rotor on a helicopter if it really vefs up speed.

        It lasted for about 2 hours.

        • Kyle says:

          We had a bit of what you experienced on the way up to Wilsonville. Several semis on the freeway we were on were being blown around between Woodburn and there. One was being blown so bad he just gave up and pulled into the truck stop to wait it out.

        • Kyle says:

          It was clear he was fighting for control and on the losing side. He saw the writing on the wall and didn’t try to continue.

        • Kyle says:

          Our car ‘bounced” a few times by the wind. Made for a bit of excitement.

      • K says:

        It was quite windy in Beaverton, actually. Anenometers don’t show much during that time, but I swear it was very gusty for a few hours.

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