A Historic Cold March Day In Some Parts of the Pacific Northwest

7pm Sunday…

Whew…it’s C-O-L-D outside!  It’s early March, the sun set less than an hour ago, and we’re already down to 32 here at KPTV on the west side of Portland.  Add in a gusty east wind and it feels like about 20 degrees outside.  I think it felt warmer all of December and January!

We are currently feeling the effects of a modified arctic airmass that surged over the Rockies and down into the Pacific Northwest.  The most obvious result from a meteorological standpoint is the dropping dewpoints.  We’re down to around 10 in the metro area, headed for single digits overnight.  This is the driest airmass of the season folks; nosebleed and skin-cracking territory.  Think even drier than Central Oregon dry.  Of course this has come in on a gusty easterly wind, peak gust so far today has been 40 at PDX.

Today was the coldest day (maximum temperature) in the month of March at PDX since the late season snow in March 2012.  Keep in mind those cold days involved clouds and snow showers (or even a steady cold rain).  That makes it even MORE amazing that we only reached 42 with 11 hours of solid sunshine.

Mark Portland Record Cold Night

Take a look at regional high temps.  You can see the effect of cold easterly flow coming through the Gorge; Portland is colder than all other locations except Roseburg.  They still have some snow on the ground which led to low clouds much of the day.

Todays Observed Highs OrWa 2017

Then notice the REALLY cold stuff east of the Cascades.  All these areas have a thick blanket of snow, even down to the Columbia River

Todays Observed Highs OrWa 20172

At first glance it doesn’t seem too unusual right?  Except for the date…it’s early March.  After checking through the records it’s obvious that in many parts of Central/Eastern Oregon this was the coldest March day in decades.

Cold Temps Record Eastern Oregon March

The Redmond airport observations go back to 1949 and the 20/21 there appears to be the coldest March day on record.  This is due to thick snow cover, a cold arctic airmass, and low clouds overhead the entire day.

By the way, the low of 26 in Portland Saturday morning was the coldest March temperature (30 years!)  since that early March 1989 cold spell.

March Coldest Temp

What’s ahead?  As long as we keep the easterly/offshore wind going in the region and snow cover remains on the ground eastside it’ll be slow to warm up here in Portland and east of the Cascades.  We’re seeing a rare convergence of several weather factors that don’t usually line up in March:

  1. Thick snow cover east of the Cascades
  2. Weak/splitty systems moving through the region for the next 7 days
  3. No widespread warm or southerly wind flow to quickly melt that snow eastside or warm us into 50s in metro area.

This tells me we’ll be slow to warm up through at least next weekend.

Models disagree on how much moisture makes it north Wednesday/Thursday.  The ECMWF is insistent on bringing light snow or a rain/snow mix to the Portland area Wednesday morning.  Since we’ll have such dry air, evaporative cooling could be a big deal = we COULD actually get sticking snow with that setup.  OR, if light/spotty showers wait until midday to show up = no big deal and we get some “conversational snow” that doesn’t affect our lives much.

I’ll take a closer look at that setup tomorrow.  For now…stay warm!  With such low dewpoints any part of the region west of the Cascades that goes completely calm could drop to 20 or even a bit lower.  Brrr!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


37 Responses to A Historic Cold March Day In Some Parts of the Pacific Northwest

  1. JohnD says:

    A re dux this evening (actually even colder vs. Sun): Currently 31.6 here in inner SWPDX @ 200′ @ 6:50 p.m. Quite remarkable. We’ll see if we do get that anomalous snow flurry in a couple of days. After that–as much as I dig this stuff (like all of us)–I’ll pretty much be ready to “call it a winter” until next winter after this!

  2. Roland Derksen says:

    Temperatures in the sunshine here aren’t too bad- I was up to 47F this afternoon, but as soon as the sun goes down, it freezes. Depending on which side of the street you’re looking at, it’s still a snowcovered landscape or there’s plenty of grass and even some flowers coming up!

  3. weatherduck83 says:

    No more conversational dustings please, either deliver the goods or gimme some 58 degree sunshine! 😎

  4. Evan -- Cedar Mill says:

    Euro and gfs REALLY like the snow chance Wednesday. Problem is temps are very borderline and daytime warming will change snow to rain during the day .

    They are pushing the Thursday night / Friday snow far north.

    East side stays wintry for longer.

    • Evan -- Cedar Mill says:

      Still, chances are relatively low.

    • W7ENK says:

      You’re just setting yourself (and everyone else) up for disappointment.

      • Evan -- Cedar Mill says:

        I guess you’re right considering its march!

      • Larry says:

        Their is a fine line between falling snow and accumulating snow. And I don’t think we’ll see much accumulating snow (if any at all). East side of I-5 will get snow falling for a little longer than the west side.

    • Andrew says:

      I think there will be snow in air Wednesday morning but am not anticipating much if any accumulation. I also do not think this “event” will extend beyond Wednesday. I’m not opposed to making certain interpretations of models and presenting the most interesting scenarios. But it’s March 4 and I think you have to assume that if models aren’t forecasting a snow or ice event, and they are not, it’s highly unlikely we will get one. Jan 4 and I might be more open to the variables shifting in our favor.

  5. Jake in Gresham says:

    Not to toot the horn early but I think we have a solid opportunity of a snow event Wednesday morning. It’s single digit temperatures in spots like Bend and Madras. Columbia river basin is in the teens. It’s the middle of the day and March. THat says something.

    Only thing trending against this is the NAM (outlier and not what I see on the satellite imagery). It’s showing the precipitation come in more North (shutting the gorge down right quick) leaving us in rain.

    Next 24 hours will be zero’ed in by the GFS / Euro. Curious what they tell as we certainly have the snow cover across the PNW allowing this arctic air to travel. There are signs on the GFS of freezing rain also for a big swath of the valley.

    • W7ENK says:

      The only reason why you’re discounting the NAM is because — aside from it being an outlier — you don’t like what it shows, despite the fact that, climatologically and realistically, it’s the most likely scenario. NAM has historically been quite accurate in the 48-72 hour time frame. Perhaps not so much on either side.

      Additionally, Mark’s RPM Snowfall map from last night shows absolutely nothing for Wednesday through 10am. This product has also been historically accurate at the 72 hour mark.

      I know we all want snow in Portland, and save for a few inconsequential dustings, most of us have been missed several times over this Winter, while just a mere 50 miles in all directions cashed in big, but it’s time to throw in the towel guys. Give it up, it’s over.

    • W7ENK says:

      Here’s the appropriate RPM snow map.

      Linked the wrong one before.

  6. Jason Hougak says:

    My bro lives in Frenchtown, MT outside Missoula and it was -18F this morning.

  7. Joshua Lake Oswego says:

    The 12z ECMWF is insistent on Wednesday evening/night snow. Thursday night/Friday and Sunday snow possibilities too. The 12z GEM likes Wednesday night too. More conservative for Thursday night. 12z GFS is liking both events. 18z NAM running now.

  8. Tanis Leach says:

    Is there eventually going to be another fun/wierd/mean email again on that thread? Its been over 3 years and I’d like to see some of the stuff some of these people spew out.

  9. Ksenia says:

    The climate is changing rapidly all over the planet and this is already an obvious fact. Where there was once a drought, it’s raining. Areas where there has never been snow, are being hit by massive snowfalls. Glaciers are melting. Lately, we’ve faced increase in volcanic and earthquake activity, floods and mudslides. What’s going on with our planet? These and other questions are answered in the report on climate- https://allatra.tv/en/article/why-is-the-climate-changing and also in the program-https://allatra.tv/en/video/it-is-coming

  10. Tanis Leach says:

    Euro is calling for an inch in the valley.

    For the skiing/snowboarding crowds: Spring passes are for sale now:
    Timberline: $139 (in effect today)
    Meadows: 7-24: $99 (in effect during nights now, and daily on March 8)
    25-64: $149
    65-74: $139
    Mt. Bachelor: $199 (estimated, prices revealed tomorrow, in effect March 30th)

  11. Jake in Gresham says:

    Check out Montana right now…

    As of 3:45 am, here are a few locations that have already broken their daily records:

    Butte- Temperature: -27° Previous Record: -25°
    Stevensville- Temperature: -17° Previous Record: -14°
    Seeley Lake- Temperature: -30° Previous Record: -24°
    Hamilton- Temperature: -13° Previous Record: -11°
    Kalispell- Temperature: -19° Previous Record: -16°
    West Glacier- Temperature: -15° Previous Record: -10°
    Eureka- Temperature: -17° Previous Record: -11°

    Source: https://kpax.com/weather/2019/03/04/weather-forecast-bitterly-cold-temperatures-to-start-the-week/

  12. Andrew says:

    Both GFS and Euro show precip for Wed-Thur now. GFS had it going to our south in prior runs. From my untrained eye temps look very borderline for snow Wednesday. As Mark said, conversational snow is a safe bet. Crazy we’re even talking about this in March! Would love to hear some other perspective on latest runs.

  13. Don says:

    25 in Sherwood

  14. Jason Hougak says:

    17F here in the foothills
    4th time in the teens this winter. 16F is the coldest which is lame.

  15. MasterNate says:

    Coldest morning of this Winter season for us at 18.

  16. Tanis Leach says:


    Not thinking Wednsday will produce anything at this time but will reasses tomorrow.

  17. Information says:

    Imagine if this pattern had started the first of December instead of February! All of the borderline snow events would have been all snow and most of it would not have melted.

  18. boydo3 says:

    Really cold for this time of year in Bend and Sisters. Highs in the teens with freezing fog and piles of snow.
    No sign of spring there now..
    But down here on the south coast we bask in 50+ temps, full sun and birds-a-chipping 🙂

  19. geo says:

    At central gresham station-7:55 p.m. it’s 27.4 degrees according to weather underground!

  20. Ken in Wood Village says:

    I looked at the Troutdale Airport and it says it’s 30F with a DP of 12F. I went outside for a smoke and like Mark said, “it’s C-O-L-D” LOL. To me, it’s right down freezing outside!! It feels like the last time we had the East Winds before we had the snow last week!! Hopefully we will see one last chance of snow flying in the air by mid-week.

    After this I hope we get into a pattern were we could see some spring type weather. Like thunderstorms or something active.

    If anyone knows, have we had a windstorm in spring before? Just wondering 🙂

  21. JohnD says:

    Phenomenal evening temp here in inner SWPDX at 7:20 p.m.–29.6′
    Mark’s rendition so astounding. Reveling in it. So spectacular sight seeing out on the Gorge today too.

  22. ocpaul says:

    My birthday today. I wished for snow when I blew out the candle on my chocolate babka.

  23. ocpaul says:

    Mark, you are a rascal lately! (that’s my full time occupation).

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