A Sunny & Warm Weekend; Above the 1,200′ Elevation

2:30pm Sunday…

This weekend has been very challenging for forecasters; a classic and very strong wintertime inversion is in place over the most populated parts of Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington.  The result is a very cool and gloomy day in the lowlands

live cam portland

We expected a mix of fog and sunshine, but assumed the strengthening sunshine would be just enough to “mix out” the lowest elevation moisture and overnight cooling.   “Mix out” means some of the warm and very dry air overhead would mix down into the lowest elevations where many of us live.  Instead the fog/cloud layer is holding strong.

We have a VERY warm atmosphere (for January) overhead.  Take a look at the mountains and beaches.  Temps in the 50s, and a few spots in the Cascade foothills have even made it into the 60s the past two days

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If it was mid-late February (3 weeks from now), we’d see highs make it into the low-mid 60s in this weather pattern in the lowlands and it would feel like spring.  Instead the long nights are still just long enough to keep the chilly air in the lowest elevations locked in place.  Take a look at the satellite image from midday


Notice you don’t have to go far from the metro area to find bright sunshine.  West of Banks along Hwy 26, anywhere along the coastline or in the Coast Range, or anywhere east of about Corbett in the Gorge.  The Cascades are enjoying blinding sunshine right now.   Both Bend and Redmond have hit at least 66 degrees this afternoon!

What about going uphill?  Check out the spine of Chehalem Mountain sticking out.  That plus the current view from our Skyline Camera

live cam portland2

tells me the fog/cloud layer is about 1200′ thick or so.  Above that elevation you pop out into sunshine.  Unfortunately the vast majority of us west of the Cascades live below that elevation.  This type of forecast (when the fog/clouds break up) is always difficult because models don’t handle the lowest 1,000′ of the atmosphere very well.  In December and January we need some sort of wind, preferably a dry east wind, to blow the fog away and mix that drier air down to sea level.  In February the increasingly strong sun can do it alone.  But in the last 5 days of January it was a tough forecast.

I can GUARANTEE you bright sunshine tomorrow though!  Why?  Cool/dry Canadian air is pushing into Eastern Washington as a strong arctic high surges south into the Great Plains.  By daybreak a strong and dry easterly wind will already be blowing through the Gorge and spreading into the metro area.  If we get any fog/clouds tomorrow morning they will be gone quickly.  Replaced by a windy and sunny day.  The WRF-GFS tends to overdo the metro area wind speeds with east wind, but I think gusts 25-40 mph are likely by midday Monday.


We’ll get the sunshine and warmer temps, but the wind will make it feel chilly in the shade and early/late in the day.  Find a spot facing south and protected from the wind for lunch Monday; then you should have a great time!

Our next good chance for rain is Wednesday night or Thursday.  More on that in blog post this evening… tomorrow.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

40 Responses to A Sunny & Warm Weekend; Above the 1,200′ Elevation

  1. Josh "The Snowman" from Gladstone says:

    Put a pot roast in earlier and I am now pulling out my fork.

    Pot roast = 2018-19 non-winter.

  2. Don’t give up hope quite yet!

    • Joshua Lake Oswego says:

      That’s great and all, but below normal doesn’t mean much when the average high will be 50 or so at that time. We need far below normal for it to be meaningful. At least we appear to be trending in the right direction.

      • Larry says:

        Yeah! Hopefully those below normal temperatures will be accompanied by some wet weather. 😀

  3. Another frosty morning for me. Current freezing level is about 9400 feet, so of course it was only a low-level phenomenon.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I was snowshoeing at 5600′ yesterday in bright sunshine and shirtsleeves. There was a definite warm breeze. On the way back, there was a 15 degree change in a 3 mile stretch of Highway 58, and the temperature was all over the place. In the South Valley, it was mid-40s and fog. This drought can be dated (at least in Eugene) to 4 Dec 17 when the big high pressure system parked over the NE Pacific. After that, we came within 10 days of having the driest 12 month period of record. We have had only one month in the last 15 with normal or above normal precipitation (April). Indeed, Lane County is, I believe, in the worse D category in the country with long range predictions showing more of the same. The models show stuff coming in, but it will all go to California or Washington. It’s just a matter of whether they show it 10 days out, 6 or 3. This is my sixth winter here, and I wonder why the diamonds on the winter trails are so high. Only one winter was decent, and even in Eugene, it was below average for precipitation, although there is a right skew and the median rainfall here is a lot less than the average. December was about two-thirds normal– a good month for us– and January about 50% of normal, ranking in about the 20%ile which is about what I expect here. The reservoirs should have been filling in December or earlier, not waiting by the calendar until this weekend. That will have a lot of consequences this summer, I fear.

  5. Paul Bonine says:

    Mark- What is our official warmest annual low temperature at PDX? I’ve read about mild winters like apparently one winter in the 30’s (34?) never recorded a freezing temperature that winter. ( Would that be Swan Island?) And I’m aware of 1958 being super mild and I remember 2003/04 which was only 27F at PDX. This winter looks like its going to peter out. I ask cause I have a garden center and people are confused- as they should be. Some haven’t had a freeze in central portland at all. In fact our shop in inner south east has only been as low as 32. 4ºF once. Major heat island effect. But what is our official mildest winter?

  6. GTS1Kft says:

    Just say no
    to February snow
    it’s always too little, too late.
    Bring on the sun
    let the warm wind blow (not today’s)
    a few warm days would be great…

  7. Ken in Wood Village says:

    Well, I guess when you use a swear word (I used the first letter and the last letter and put stars for the rest of the word) that it needs to be approved…lol.

  8. Ken in Wood Village says:

    I’m so f*****g tired of that High pressure. I’m tired of the weather and how it gives us nothing. Here comes the depression again 😦

    • Larry says:

      Don’t worry Ken! That high pressure is gonna move out soon. I was watching Brian MacMillan during the 5 o’ clock news. He says that Oregon will return to ‘cool and showery’ by February 4th. Don’t give up hope! 🙂

  9. W7ENK says:

    Ya know, it’s funny. Even after a massive SSW event that leads to a complete disruption of the Polar Vortex, the effects of which are felt across the whole Northern hemisphere, we here in the Western lowlands of the PNW still somehow miss out entirely. 😥


  10. K says:


    That was a buzzkill! So much for GFS showing fun weather ahead

  11. WEATHERDAN says:

    On Tuesday it was maybe record highs this weekend. By Friday it was still forecast to be 50 over the weekend. It actually hit 40 and 41. Grade F for the TV mets this weekend. Hopefully sunnier Monday. But I won’t hold my breath. Peace.

  12. Which will be warmer tomorrow Mark…Seaside or Tillamook?

  13. Muxpux (Castle Rock) says:

    Tried to get above the clouds to catch the sunset, unfortunately, my go to spot is only 1,100’, and was socked in. It’s a good hike though, so it wasn’t for naught. Lol

  14. Jason Hougak says:

    Mark… thanks for the teaser post… arg!!!

  15. Tynan W says:

    has anyone checked weather.com? I see tons of winter weather from
    Feb 5-10.

  16. ocpaul says:

    7 degrees right now in my home town of Rockford,Illinois. Some snow on Monday. Wednesday’s high -16, low temp -29.
    I miss it. Can’t talk my wife into going back there.

  17. So I suppose my window in my bedroom will stay open. Its been too hot to sleep with it closed.

  18. Bear says:

    I too am looking forward to this evenings blog post….I think….I hope. Like so many of you the long range models this season seem to tease and then disappoint. The lack of snow in the air this season reminds me of a winter some 12 to 15 years ago when I never saw a snowflake in the air not even in a cold rain/mix. For all of us especially Ken I hope we get a good dose of winter weather before all hopes disappear in about 3 weeks.

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      Hehe, thanks for thinking of me Bear…lol. I knew Mark would like to talk about the reason why we are not seeing the sun like he said in his forecast.

      Do you still do your report card Mark? I think you got a couple of “D’s” on your forecasts…hehe…just kidding 🙂

      Yea, it will be nice to know Mark’s thoughts about what’s coming up. The 18Z GFS isn’t as good as the 12Z. What I do see is a pattern change to cool and wetter weather. Not sure about seeing snow to the valley floor at this time. What I do see is snow to very low elevations (which hasn’t seen snow all this season and I’m guessing Mark could see snow, finally) and better snow in the mountains for skiers.

      The 12Z Euro was good but not the greatest either. It shows the same pattern change as the GFS. It still is a few days away and a lot can change so it will be riding the models from here on out.

      It’s the best chance we have had all this winter so let’s hope we see something. 🙂

      • Larry says:

        With anticipation we’ll see some flakes fly! Thus far this terrible winter, I haven’t witnessed a SINGLE snowflake in the air. Pretty disappointing for a snow lover.
        What’s wonderfully interesting is in this possible instance the models are more organized. The other times during the mild winter we’ve been taunted with 1-2 models supposedly showing ample pockets of arctic air in the PNW region or a weather system allegedly delivering us snow. This critical time I believe will be different. This could be conceivably the chance for me (and especially Mark) to see some snow flakes in the air and maybe even on the ground.
        We’ll have to wait and see what Mark thinks (Hopefully, he agrees!). But until then, we’ll have to ride the models out.

        • Ken in Wood Village says:

          I was watching Mark on the 5 o’clock news and he said something about the GFS model. He says it goes nuts sometimes. He always goes by the Euro which doesn’t show anything close to the GFS for cold temps (even tho the GFS has been pretty good this winter). We can only wait and see what happens the next few days. It will be a up and down ride on the models from here on out until we get closer.

          It will be interesting to see what the 00Z Euro shows. Hopefully it will trend colder 🙂

        • Mark Nelsen says:

          The GFS has been terrible long-range this winter. Remember how much it went for cold air back in December?

        • Joshua Lake Oswego says:

          The euro ensembles have been hot garbage too. Do you know how many times temperatures have been on the high side outside the 95% confidence level 10 days or so out? Far too many. Also, for weeks on end, the median forecast would call for 4-6” rain in the following 14 days. Not once did that happen.

  19. Larry says:

    Awesome! Thanks for the local update Mark. Definitely excited about the blog post tonight!

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