A Changing Climate: Spring 2019 Another Warm One

6pm Monday…

Spring 2019 is in the record books now that May has ended.   Meteorologists consider spring to be March through May in the Northern Hemisphere.  How was it?


You may remember the first 10 days of March were very chilly due to leftover snow cover over much of the Pacific Northwest.  But then April and May were significantly warmer than average.  May 2019 and 2018 rank as #4 and #2 warmest on record!   The result = Spring 2019 was #15 warmest out of 80 springs.

This COULD be one effect of a changing global circulation here in the Pacific Northwest (higher upper-level heights); but could be partly cyclical as well.  While speaking with local meteorologists at a Portland Water Bureau meeting last Thursday this subject came up.   It seems we are seeing more up/down movement of the jet stream and fewer stormy periods with strong westerly flow.  This would account for the extra cold/snowy February weather recently with persistent ridging offshore.  Or the shift to ridging directly overhead at times (warm and dry).  This is all anecdotal of course. One local meteorologist feels this has occurred in the past, mentioning similar setups in the 1980s.  Interesting eh?  Regardless, 4 of the top 10 warmest springs have occurred recently; in 2014, 2015, 2016, & 2018.

What about rain?  Of course it’s easy to remember the unusually dry three weeks in late April and early May.  But March was quite dry, and even with a little rain later in May it still ended up below average.

Most interesting is that this is NOT a trend in our area.  Looking back 50+ years the trend is slightly wetter, not drier.

I think these are the three most memorable weather events this spring:

  1. Record cold temps (but sunshine!) in early March.  A rare early March snow-cover east of the Cascades along with easterly wind allowed cold/dry Canadian air farther south than normal.  PDX hit 24 in early March!
  2. Rare (or unprecedented?) April flooding in Willamette Basin.  First time I’ve seen flooding this late in the season.  Did this expand the “flood season” in our area?  Time will tell.
  3. 2nd consecutive year with a long dry spell mid spring.  Around 25 days with little/no rain in our area from 3rd week of April to mid-May.

Looking ahead…

We have seen a series of warm June months as well.  We haven’t seen a “chilly” June since 2014 and looking ahead I wouldn’t be surprised if this happens again in 2019.  The warm May pattern continues into early June on models, but with a brief downturn the mid-late part of this week.  A cool upper-level trough drops into the Pacific Northwest just in time for Friday/Saturday Rose Festival events.  See the ECMWF ensemble 500 millibar heights for tomorrow AM

Then by Friday a cold trough is overhead.  Expect some June snow down to at least Timberline Lodge, could even get a dusting down to Government Camp and those Cascade lakes!

Behind this trough the strongest/warmest (hottest?) ridging of the season develops early NEXT week.  It’s possible we’ll see 90 degrees or higher around Monday-Wednesday next week if this pattern shows up

Rain?  Not a whole lot, but we’ll wet things down a bit Thursday-Saturday.  Possibly as little as .10″ in the driest parts of western valleys to 1″+ in Cascades

And the timing is VERY clear on the ECMWF ensembles.  This is 24 hour rainfall from each of the 51 ensemble members, then the average (in blue) down below.

They all agree on rain Friday/Saturday, then totally dry for several days following.  Obviously late this week isn’t a good time to plan a deck-staining, mowing the lawn, or painting a shed outside.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


35 Responses to A Changing Climate: Spring 2019 Another Warm One

  1. SK says:

    I have a question that is based off of some minor data keeping, mentally, that I’ve been doing. I live in NE Portland near the airport. I’ve noticed that our neighborhood, compared to others in pdx, seem to get more rain showers than others. I am all over the city for work most days and every time there are showers, like yesterday, I see damp roads in my area vs. dry less than a mile away. This seems to be the case more often than not. Are there drier pockets of Portland in the city limits? I’m mainly referring to showery/sun break days rather than the overall rain/cloudy days. Any input is welcomed. Thanks!

    • Joshua Lake Oswego says:

      W7 will tell you about the dome over his house in Milwaukee. I think I’m under the same dome. It would be interesting to have very localized official data for the metro area.

      • SK says:

        I was working out in Milwaukee a few months ago and I noticed the dome as well. I agree with your data idea, seems like it would be fairly easy to do, even if it was rough averages.

      • Anonymous says:


    • Evan -- Cedar Mill says:

      I agree. You can see on radar that as the showers move past the coast range they die down but then quickly fire up as they move east across the metro. For example I have only had 1 or maybe 2 showesr here in the past 3 days. I’m north of beaverton btw.

  2. Roland Derksen says:

    A pretty good round of showers here this morning between 9 and 10:30 am. the temperature at 10;30 was just 52F- but the sun has been shining through a bit since.

  3. Kyle says:

    Last year at this time I would’ve been able to take a short 9:30pm ‘twilight’ walk without the aid of a light source but now there is no way it could be done.

  4. Kyle says:

    Compared to the last few years it’s been unsually dark at 10pm despite it being nearing the longest day of the year! By late May we are usually still in twilight from late May to mid July!

    The Twilight was fading fast at 9:45pm and was all gone by 10. I’m wonderin if we are going to get our 9:30 light this year at all. Usually it is pretty bright at 9:30pm despite the sun just setting until sometime in Mid July. That’s when things usually start fading fast especially August.

    • Tanis Leach says:

      The latest Sunset in Porrland is 9:04 pm. Normally the longer twighlights come a little later.

  5. PAUL D says:

    Sure hope we get some rain this evening. So far all we’ve had is the sky spitting on us in Hillsboro.

  6. Joshua Lake Oswego says:

    Next Wednesday will be close to 100. Precipitation will average about .10” in the metro area for next 10 days. The the Desert Northwest is here to stay.

    • PAUL D says:

      Watch that kind of talk! No triple digit garbage! 90 is bad enough.

    • Joshua Lake Oswego says:

      Haha. Believe me, it’s the last thing I want.

    • Evan -- Cedar Mill says:

      It’ll be 97 max

      • Joshua Lieber says:

        Oh, well that’s reasonable. Only 25 degrees warmer than normal. The only good news is that the extreme heat appears to be short-lived.

      • Tanis Leach says:

        If it turns out today to be low 60s, that 97 will even it out due to the average low temp.

        • Joshua Lake Oswego says:

          Even it out? We are already running +2 degrees for June. That will be going up quickly starting on Sunday.

  7. david wilson says:

    hey mark no hair guy that used to live on salzman.. we are in hendersonville nc. Never seen people so happy for the chance of rain. did chimney rock thing yesterday. new baby coming to rv today, she is the BEST. NO EAST WIND HERE. we are glad to be out of corbett.

    • W7ENK says:

      While less frequent, I believe you’ll find an East wind to be a bit more problematic there in NC.

      • Gene says:

        Yeah, I never understood all the whining about the East Wind. I’ve lived on the east side my whole life, and the East Wind is just part of the rhythm of winter. Plus, it only lasts a couple of months (and gives us our best chance for snow in the winter). I think most of us would agree that East Winds in the winter are much preferable to tornados, hurricanes, and torrential rains and flooding. We actually have it pretty good out here, weather-wise, compared to much of the country

      • david wilson says:

        unlike living on salzman for 30 years, i turn the key on and move. wife getting life time pain from the many ice storms and i got tried of working driveway morning before work and coming home after midnight to shove more got to us.

  8. W7ENK says:

    Rain is about to move into Downtown Portland… I can smell it!

    • Kyle says:

      Well we got a tad bit more then the smell. A few sprinkles measuring as 0.01 in the rain gauge or (A trace). This is our ‘big’ storm for June? So much for that early April feel they were hyping up last week.

      King Euro wins again!

  9. Muxpux (Castle Rock) says:

    Man. Monday is my first day working up at Johnston’s Ridge. What timing… missing a chance at snow, and then getting hot as hell to start out… damn…

  10. Roland Derksen says:

    This was my 4th warmest May on record(in 44 years). The top 3 warmest were all within the last 5 years.

  11. Ken in Wood Village says:

    I thought I would post something I saw from the NWS. It’s very interesting.

    US National Weather Service Portland Oregon

    Weather-wise, one of the most tumultuous weeks in Oregon history started out with deadly thunderstorms on June 2 and 3 in 1894.

    Prolific lightning storms in the Willamette Valley on the 2nd killed Morgan McCullough and one of the horses he was holding when lightning struck in Troutdale. Lightning also splintered trees in the Portland area and wrecked a church steeple in Oregon City. A 3-hour storm in Eugene set all the phones in town ringing when the central office was struck.

    Storms continued over the eastern part of Oregon on June 3rd 1894. At 11 am, a tornado swept across the eastern part of Long Creek, killing Mr. and Mrs. James Parrish, and an infant child. Twenty homes were reported destroyed, along with a flour mill and school house.

    Also occurring that first week in June 1894, was the Great Flood of 1894. We’ll take a look at that disastrous event later in the week…

    • Kylle says:

      I’m curious to what state the western hemisphere was in during that time period? I wonder if it was a -PDO from hell.

  12. Steve B says:

    Of course, the weekend I actually WAS planning on staining my deck. Better luck next week!

  13. PAUL D says:

    Not 90’s, please no!!!

  14. Mark, What do you see in the forecast after next week? We need to do our roof and looking for a pleasant week long weather, starting Saturday, so there wouldn’t be rain or 90+ F heat ? I live in Salem.


  15. Must be Rose Festival season. It’s going to rain. Doesn’t at least one weekend of Rose Festival always get rain?

  16. MasterNate says:

    First! Thanks for for always throwing out fun numbers Mark!

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