Coldest Start To February Since 1989; More Chilly Temps Ahead

7pm Sunday…

The weather sure slowed down the middle of last week.  The most excitement we’ve had the past few days has been occasional sticking snow down into the hills around the metro area.  The next 3-6 days should be relatively “weather drama free” as well.

First, what a change!  On January 31st our winter (December-February) was within the top 10 warmest, and the warmest since 2015…then a big change…

This month (through the 17th) has seen an average temperature of 37.6 degrees in Portland, and that’s the coldest first 17 days of February in 30 years!  That was the year we had a HUGE arctic blast the first 10 days of the month.  We saw a HIGH of 15 early in the month as the arctic air came blasting in.  This month we didn’t get an arctic blast, but it’s been consistently chilly the past two weeks.  And that is going to continue for at least 7 more days.

Month Climate Temps Calendar

Today’s satellite image and jet stream tell the story

Satellite Surface

Upper-level high pressure is very persistent over the Eastern Pacific; on the back side of the ridge one system after another has been diving south either just offshore, just inland, or to our east.  That brings wave after wave of chilly air out of Canada.  Another (relatively weak) surge of cool air is moving over us right now.  That dries us out tonight and Monday.  Yes, we actually get a dry day Monday.


Of course we all know north of Longview in western Washington and in the central/eastern Gorge it’s been a spectacular and historic month for snow.  Here in Northwest Oregon we just missed out on what could have been a historic February snowfall (early last week).  Instead we went from snow to rain last Sunday evening with that southerly wind and that was it for snow in the lowlands.  Since that time, when we’ve seen precipitation overhead we’ve seen onshore flow (too warm), or the atmosphere in general just hasn’t been cold enough to support snow down to sea level.  We had a couple of days late last week where freezing rain was very close to the east metro area.  But the cold air coming in from the east just wasn’t all that cold = no freezing rain.

At this point I don’t see a setup for widespread lowland snow through at least next Saturday, most likely through next Sunday.  There are hints that we might get some sort of offshore flow + moisture for something frozen in the Gorge and maybe east metro around 8-10 days from now.  But that’s too far out.  The morning ECMWF model nicely displayed our slim chance of sledding west of the Cascades the next 6 days

ECMWF Snow Accumulation

Why No Good Chances for Snow?

  • The critical 850mb temperature (in celsius) you need to even think about lowland snow (with no help from dry easterly/northerly wind) is -7 to -8.  The ECMWF doesn’t show that between now and next Sunday, and the GFS only shows it close next Sunday.  All this week it’s between -3 and -6.  Basically even though it’s going to remain chilly the next 7 days, it won’t be nearly as cold as the exact same period last February when we saw three different snow events.
  • I don’t see any significant offshore wind bringing cold/dry air through the Gorge through at least next Sunday.  Except for tomorrow, but it’ll be dry anyway.
  • When we DO get a bunch of precipitation in here Tuesday + early Wednesday, we get a relatively strong southwest air flow.  That will push sticking snow up around 1,500-2,000′ pretty quickly, like last Sunday night.
  • We have just about passed the point in winter when we can get a metro-wide, snowed-in, icy-roads sort of day.  Sure it can easily snow this late in the season, but it’s EXTREMELY rare to have a “locked in ice” sort of day in Portland the last week of February (that starts Thursday) and beyond.


That said, the pattern seems to want to change somewhat about a week from now.  Check out the ECMWF ensemble 500mb height anomalies for this coming Thursday…a cool trough over us, similar to what we’ve been seeing lately


But next Sunday, that upper level ridge builds farther north into Alaska which COULD divert a more potent arctic airmass down into the northern USA

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Or it could set up a clash of milder air coming in underneath that ridge and a cold easterly flow at the surface.  It IS possible to get a real snowstorm in the Portland area the last few days of February, but everything has to be exactly right (or wrong?).  It’s even more rare to get a significant ice storm this late in the season, in fact I’m not aware of an ice storm in the metro area in mid-late February or later.  That doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened, but I haven’t seen it during my 28 years forecasting here.  It is easier to get a Gorge ice/snow storm this late in the season and that may be what happens 8-10 days from now.

So to wrap it up, the next 5-6 days should be somewhat tranquil, but your heating bill will continue to soar for February 2019.  Could be a big one coming in the mail by early March!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen



38 Responses to Coldest Start To February Since 1989; More Chilly Temps Ahead

  1. Serge says:

    Observing climate changes on our planet and natural disasters that have been happening more and more frequently, I’m sure that in the nearest future we’ll see new temperature records and not only.

  2. runrain says:

    My “Worst Weather” for a real weather geek:

    Hi 45
    Low 35
    Cloudy, no sunbreaks
    Occasional drizzle or light rain
    Winds around 10-15


  3. Roland Derksen says:

    February 1989 is still colder than this one up til now for me- but I think it could be really close between the two if the cold weather hangs on til the end. One thing for sure- I’ve never seen snow cover on the ground last as long in February as it has this time.

    • JohnD says:

      Not even close this year vs. 1989 here in Portland. Amid a huge Arctic outbreak the high here one day was 13′–low 9′!–plus windy! I can only imagine what it was like where you are! It was also a rare year with a big snowfall in early March.

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      Yea, it’s a little quiet in this blog. I think everyone is waiting for something interesting to happen…lol.

      What I see in the model runs is something could be very interesting next week. Models have been showing it for the past day or two. If we go by the GFS, we could see maybe a snowstorm maybe Tuesday and Wednesday. We would have cold air in place then a low comes up from the SW and brings really cold East Winds through the Gorge. This would be a classic set-up for a good snowstorm then a transition to sleet and freezing rain to rain.

      Well see if the models keep showing this in the next few days.

      • GTS1Kft says:

        “…the next few days.”

        Ah, wishcasting grown a bit desperate, methinks: 2 could‘s, 2 if‘s and 2 maybe‘s – it’s a lock!!!

        Then again, the better chance is for very uninteresting 33 – 37 degree rain.

        I’m so done with this winter – if only it were done with me…

        • Ken in Wood Village says:

          I can understand your skepticism. This winter has been a real dud and seeing what the models are showing would make me skeptical too. One thing that’s going for us prior to the event next week and that is the PNW will stay cool. What I saw from Mark’s forecast last night, the freezing level will stay very low all week and into next week.

          It’s just a wait and see thing right now.

        • W7ENK says:

          The freezing level has been low for almost 3 weeks now, and the only thing that’s yielded the vast majority of us so far is cold rain. Why should we believe this is going to be any different? At this point, the deck is just stacking heavier against us every day that goes by. I have zero faith it will amount to anything favorable for us lowland dwellers, you’re just needlessly getting your hopes up at this point.

      • runrain says:

        Cold rain until July 5 is my prediction.

  4. Larry says:

    Weather has slowed down in the past few days. A good breather after the ‘snowpocalypse’ we’ve been told about. Portland still got a nice 6” of snow (so far) this month.

    Why has it started so cold this month?

    Consistent high pressure in the southeast region and ridging far off the coast allows low pressure systems to drag in colder air from the northeast, bringing temperature below average.

    What about in terms of snow?

    Portland has been snow less through the winter until this month. Receiving 6” of snow (in total, so far) this month. Mountains have been deluged with multiple feet of snow in the past few week! Valleys have been quite complicated for snow, forecast models have been divided on who gets snow and how much. Coast and coast range has gotten their fair share of snow this month. Gorge and foothills has also seen quite a bit of snow.

    So… what about the rest of February?

    I think we will stay consistent with our pattern we’ve been seeing so far this month. However, GFS and ECMWF are showing colder air in the gorge than on the west side a few days for the end of February. If east winds pick up, we could be seeing cold air spilling into the metro area. Mountains, (In my opinion) should be fine for accumulating snowfall for the rest of the month. Snow levels should stay low, 1500′ – 2000′ elevation, which is great news for skiers. Valleys and metro are unlikely to see a major snow/ice event at this point. Although, I wouldn’t rule out we couldn’t see one more snow event in the next few weeks. We’ll see how that goes though.

    How confident am I in seeing lowland snow again this month?

    Not very. Chances for snow are too far out to get an idea of what we’ll see. Once we get closer, we will get a better picture for snow.

    To summarize:

    Oregon will stay cool through the rest of the month
    It is POSSIBLE for metro and lowlands to see another snow event.
    A MAJOR snow/ice event is unlikely at this point for metro and Willamette valley.
    Mountains should be okay for new accumulated snowfall through the rest of the month.

    I recommend you, (whoever is reading my blog post) to watch the weather for the next two weeks. Weather predictions, forecast models, and of course, Mark Nelsen. Have a good day everyone, and keep an eye on those forecasts!

    • Larry says:

      OK which Larry is this? 🙂

      • Larry says:

        I don’t know. Never seen someone else with the exact name on this blog (I’ve only been on for a couple months). If you’ve been on here longer I’m more than happy to change my name. Maybe first name then last initial, or something close to that. 🙂

  5. Pgiorgio says:

    If the runs looking good now. It probably wont play out that way. More cold rain coming. Something frozen could pop up for a different day sooner or later as we get closer. The only thing that iis probable is colder than normal.

  6. W7ENK says:

    Everything always balances out.

    Are we headed into a Spring 2010-2011 redux? I sure hope not.

  7. 12zGFS this weekend looking interesting

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      It looks more interesting after the weekend. There is a set up were cold air is in place and we get a good cold East wind that pulls cold air into the Portland area and we get moisture overriding the cold air. Which we get a lot of snow. I kind of saw this in a couple past runs. It keeps developing it more and more. Let’s see if it keeps it up 🙂

  8. weatherduck83 says:

    Thanks for the update. Ugh, if I wanted weeks on end of cold rain I’d move to……well Portland I suppose 🤔😏

    Was hoping for a classic false spring day on the coast this upcoming Saturday as we’ve got plans; appears it will be anything but!

  9. PAUL d says:

    Sure beats the warmer than normal we’ve been stuck with for too long. Loving it!

  10. Anonymous says:

    you are not losing it or getting older any faster than the rest of us weather nerds!

  11. Jason Hougak says:

    Can’t complain about a white birthday. This February has been awesome. Would have been even more memorable with the 3 feet of snow predicted by models for the foothills earlier in the month. Perhaps next winter.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Its OVER folks

  13. Ken in Wood Village says:

    Thank you for the update Mark. First 🙂

  14. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for the update Mark. First 🙂

  15. East Vancouver Beast says:

    1989 was 30 years ago Mark. 😇

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