A Mild January; Lots of Rain, but No Lowland Snow Ahead

7pm Thursday…

Our cold season so far (November through February) has been warmer and drier than average.  November was near normal, but then very mild December through January.

Winter So Far Recap

Of course November was excessively dry, and drier than average conditions continued through December.  Now it’s makeup time.  Plenty of rain this month and lots more coming the last 8 days of January

Winter So Far Recap2

This winter (so far!) has been similar to last year for meteorologists…one of the most boring on record.  I do a winter recap presentation for our local Oregon AMS Chapter each fall; keeping a file of important weather pics or events.  I just checked that file; some pics of vehicles stuck in tumbleweeds, a bomb cyclone into southern Oregon, and low snowpack images.  Oh, a little EF-0 tornado in Manzanita too.  That’s it!   No real flooding, lowland snow, valley windstorms, and just barely a coastal windstorm.

Winter So Far Intro It’s also interesting that our coldest temperature of winter was in November this year…again so far.  26 degrees the last two mornings of November during that cold snap around Thanksgiving.  Salem hit 20 those mornings, and a 19 at Hillsboro.

Winter Coldest Day Each Year

You may remember through much of October through early January we saw either a weak jet stream, upper-level ridging, or a split flow with weather systems going into California.  But in the past week a more typical wet westerly jet stream has been sending weather systems into the Pacific Northwest.  It’s a mild westerly flow with occasional rain at the ski areas mixed with snowy periods.  Plenty of rain falls in the valleys too.  Take a look at the rain forecast from the ECMWF model for the next 6 days.  2-3″ in the valleys and up to 8″ in mountains (some of that will fall as snow).  You can see the below average upper-level heights over us next Monday…


Then weak ridging with a possible atmospheric river setup around next Thursday

We’re looking at the ECMWF ensembles from last night; a compilation of many different runs of one model.

It appears there will be a change right around Superbowl Sunday.  All models show at least a brief colder period with an upper-level trough dropping through the region.  Here’s that Sunday…this is 10 days out in time


Just for fun; you can see four days later the ridging pops back up closer to us.  This is two weeks from now.


So based on this and other model info available right now:

  1. The last 8 days of January will feature the weather we have right now: Mild, wet, & occasionally windy
  2. There will not be any significant freezing the rest of the month
  3. Expect the Cascade snowpack to increase in depth; a mix of more rain + snow
  4. No sign of lowland snow or freezing rain through the end of the month, but maybe a brief flirtation with low elevation “onshore flow” type snow in 11-13 days?  Just a small possibility now.

What about that cold trough in early February around Superbowl Sunday and the following Monday/Tuesday?  A few of the ECMWF ensemble members think it could be a “wet snow showers” setup.  I chose Aurora as a location since the PDX site tends to have resolution issues with SW Washington Cascades so close.


CMC (Canadian) ensembles have fewer members with a wet snow chance


That’s it for now…enjoy the rain and stay dry!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

87 Responses to A Mild January; Lots of Rain, but No Lowland Snow Ahead

  1. The 18z gfs is calling for a shot of snow fall on the evening of the 2nd. The 12z canadian and the 12z euro are also catching this for almost the entire Willamette valley. We shall see.

    Gorge turns on as we dry out and the system passes. A very similar lame opportunity but with an even colder air mass up in the arctic circle. So who knows?

    I saw snow here early in the morning briefly last shot so who knows.

    La la gets even more interesting on all runs with an even more intense arctic front on the 8th and a proper ridging trying to establish in the right spot. Point is. Arctic circle is polar bear cold.

    What’s even more clear right now is the first wave of cold is too much over the Pacific.

    Looking at the 18z GFS over on Alaska window the path of the arctic air is actually just a matter of how darn darn darn cold Siberia and Alaska are and it’s just run off, so to speak, going all over the Pacific and slushing West over toward us. Meh are my thoughts. It could all change with the right block though.

    Very very wet snow if it comes down to sea level at all is what I see currently.

    • Evan -- Cedar Mill says:

      Agreed. We must note that with a higher sun angle, it’s going to take more to get sticking snow down to sea level.

      • Jake in Gresham says:

        Not just yet. We’re getting there but the 2nd half of February is where that really factors in. It’s now or never for sure though if anything epic

    • Tanis Leach says:

      I’m not sold yet, as the temps are right at that cusp zone and it’s not practical to think we will get too much for this. However, it is not out of the question.

      • Jake in Gresham says:

        Yea pretty much what I’m thinking. It’s right there. Something to watch closely b/c there’s some model consolidation occurring unlike like last time where the gfs played cowboy.

  2. Roland Derksen says:

    The rain has ended here for the day. Counting up my current total amount for the month I got 12.57 inches. that makes it no.3 for wettest January, and we’re not quite done yet. Less than 2 inches to go and we’ll have a new record- it’s possible!

  3. Ziggy says:

    It appears the wishcasting has come back again, there may be conversational cold with no snow upcoming. Nothing to get excited about, spring will be here soon enough!!

  4. Andrew says:

    GFS also drops like 3-5 inches of snow in Portland Sunday night into Monday. This one feels like another repeat of earlier in month, when it consistently erred too cold and too wet. With the current setup I can’t imagine seeing anything but a few flakes in the air below 500 feet.

  5. Andrew says:

    Yeah showing a full fledged arctic air outbreak starting around Sunday, Feb. 9. Something this far out is highly precarious. I’ll be interested to see how Euro and the WRF-GFS handle over next five days when we get within striking distance. Also worth noting it looks very dry during this period. However, prime transition event setup with the right system. Not in Mark’s nature to blog on “trends” nearly two weeks out, and for good reason. This is in the realm of model followers and wishcasters for the time being.

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      What’s interesting is some of the Euro’s ensemble’s show a artic outbreak around the 9th. We’ll see how the models do the next few days.

      • Tanis Leach says:

        Seems 12z had more ensambles jump onto an arctic outbreak. Still too early but looking (slightly) more promising. Or am I misreading it?

    • rmlounsbury says:

      If we could get the high that forms over the Pacific to scoot west more it would really open up the refrigerator door. If this setup where to hold true we might not necessarily get a transition event (the 12Z GFS is bone dry and the air mass moderates before it shows more moisture). But, we might be able to get a BC slider to spin up as the cold air interacts with the Pacific.

    • Scott Reeves says:

      Let me write this down….full artic hell to breakout on Feb 9th got it.


  6. MasterNate says:

    Would love to see a new blog by Master Nelson.

  7. Ken in Wood Village says:

    Wow, the 12Z GFS is going bonkers again…lol. Look at hour 276!!

  8. boydo3 says:

    First time in a long time that Alaska is running cold. That’s good for us all.

  9. Ken in Wood Village says:

    Wow, the 00Z Canadian model is really impressive for the extended forecast. Hmmm 😉

  10. ocpaul says:

    The most notable thing about this January is 1)mosquitoes
    2)dandelions. Looking forward to months of box elders and stink bugs. yeah

  11. Roland Derksen says:

    Some light drizzle falling here presently- I see some lighter skies toward the southern horizon, but no sunshine is likely. I’m hoping February will be mostly sunny- I know that would mean low precipitation for you folks south of us, but it’s soggy here. I really want to see things dry up–at least somewhat.

  12. W7ENK says:

    Closed out yesterday with 1.05″ of rain, most of which fell in the last 6 hours of the day. Had another 0.38″ in the gauge when I left the house at 6 this morning.

    My yard is now a swamp. Standing water out back, and the front yard is so soggy that my feet slipped and tore a pair of skid marks in the grass just trying to walk to my car. We need the rain, but this is a bit much. Looks like more waves are coming.

  13. rmlounsbury says:

    Well, it might be a skunky setup for snow but it does at least mean we should get a couple drier and sunnier days after a solid stretch of drenching rain.

    So I will gladly take that for a few days. It does seem the GFS is sticking to it’s guns on cooler and drier for February.

  14. Ken in Wood Village says:

    Looks like the front has come through and now the wind has picked up. It’s gotten really windy at my place.

    • Jake in Gresham says:

      I can confirm. I just drove through the trenches that is of I-84 lol! A real sheering rain out there tonight.

      Well the 00z gfs stunk. Shoot man I’m thinking to hope for a windstorm at this point. Which is saying something because I like snow far more. What a lame Winter!

      • lurkingsince’14 says:

        Euro seems pretty stingy with some cold air early next week?

        I feel like GFS just keeps waffling or bumping anything interesting out. Plus it’s been terrible and nobody should really look at it from Nov-Feb anyway 😂

        • Andrew says:

          yeah models aren’t looking good. cooler air mon-tues but not valley-snow cold and limited moisture anyway. By Wednesday, we fall back to mild. Previous GFS runs were hinting at a return of colder air and an east wind around 10th but that’s gone now. Plenty of time for stuff to change, but right now this is a non-event.

  15. Ziggy says:

    Has anyone asked Rod Hill if its going to snow?

  16. W7ENK says:

    January 2020 is now the wettest month since November 2017.

  17. Andrew says:

    Nothing overly compelling in latest model runs. GFS does appear to want to keep us in a cool/cold period for a fairly extended period. I’ll believe it when I see it. Right now I see lot of cool (not true cold) and drier. Sunday/Monday produces a mix at best based on current runs. more of a 1,000 feet and up type event

  18. Andy says:

    Hit 59 here in Albany yesterday and I did cut the grass since it started growing with the warmer conditions. I hate to say it but several so-called experts predicted a warmer winter for the NW.I didn’t want to believe them since most of them reside on the East coast. But I have to give them credit they were pretty much correct as we run out of time for snow in the valley. Maybe we will have a late season snow and cold in February which has happened many times in the past with a pattern change.

  19. Roland Derksen says:

    A nice break of sunshine here this morning. We’re still a few days away from the end of this month, but I’m thinking this January could be close to no.4 or 3 for wettest in my record books, when all is done. It’s a combination of above normal precipitation with an very notable lack of sun or dry days that have made it a difficult month for me.

  20. Ziggy says:

    Polish up the forks, winter is over!!!! Come on spring and do your thing 👍👍🍴🍴

  21. Jake in Gresham says:

    While impressive arctic air (-32 to -35 Celsius on this here 850mb) in upper Alaska the 12z GFS today is saying it gets bottled up.

    Further on the run into day Feb 6th or so a ridging finally holds but I’m thinking this is our last real shot at Winter storm weather based on just how cold Alaska is on these runs:


    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      The 12Z Euro is looking good 😉

    • Jake in Gresham says:

      Oh wow, the 12z Euro is more bullish than the gfs now. Interesting out this far. That’s something

      • Ken in Wood Village says:

        It’s the second run the Euro has some cold air coming down from the North into the PNW. We’ll need to keep an eye on it.

        • Jake in Gresham says:

          So agree Ken! If the weather models trend how they are they’ll be better than the previous opportunity. I’m just happy the gfs this time is being comparable to other weather models. One can dream everything intensifies forward from here

    • rmlounsbury says:

      Less bottled up and more shunted east with a brief dump of cold over the PNW. Unfortunately that cold is just like the last go around with onshore flow.

      To make matters worse it will be early February with an increasing sun angle (albeit still weak). Without a offshore component our chances of snow are DOA at the valley floor.

  22. Ken in Wood Village says:

    The 00Z Euro is looking good for cold weather in the extended forecast. Starting around Feb. 3rd. Let’s hope this keeps up 🙂

    • Reeves says:

      You know it ain’t gonna happen

    • lurkingsince’14 says:

      Doesn’t appear to be a lot of moisture tho? If a cold dry week is all we get out of this winter I’ll take it 😂

    • Andrew says:

      Now the GFS doesn’t seem as on board. So it begins…Euro nailed last one so i’m hoping it’s more prophetic this go around too.

  23. JohnD says:

    Third time’s the charm?!
    Time will tell!

    • Jake in Gresham says:

      It’s raining in the Northeast all the way up into the Canadian boarder by the Big Lakes. A pretty mild pattern right now. I hope at least for a snowstorm in the Midwest. After that amazing snowpack we got everything is just crawling across much of North America. Drought persists in Texas. Really nothing to watch!

  24. W7ENK says:

    GFS just went off the rails.

    Here we go again… 😂🤣😂

  25. rmlounsbury says:

    I see the 18Z GFS has been hitting the bottle… -10C by the end of the run in lala land. I suppose winter isn’t ready to give up on teasing us yet.

  26. WEATHERDAN says:

    Daffodils now blooming in Salem. Very mild through February 9th. Winter is over. Peace.

  27. rmlounsbury says:

    I won’t lie, I was enjoying our sunny weather during the Fall. At least we got cold at night and frosty vs. our kinda-mild-but-dreary-gray-and-rain weather.

    It still feels like the weather patterns have shifted back a month. Usually the gray and rain train starts in November or December and it’s been holding off until December/January in recent years.

  28. Roland Derksen says:

    Some heavy showers here this morning- I don’t think I’ve seen the ground around here so wet before- everything is muddy!

  29. Scott Reeves says:

    Can’t wait for you nerds to start forecasting a white super bowl

  30. Paul D says:

    The grass and weeds are growing!! Looks like we’ll have to start mowing in February again! AARGHH!!! 😦

  31. Andrew says:

    Mark mentions a possible atmospheric river set up later next week. Between that, the recent rain with mild temps and our recent heavy snows above a few thousand feet, I would think there could be concerns about flooding. An atmospheric river could melt a lot of snow pretty quickly. I assume risk is low or Mark would have mentioned. It just feels like ingredients are there.

  32. Jason Hougak says:

    The 00Z GFS was nice looking. Hopefully the models get something right. February… there’s still winter left!

  33. lurkingsince’14 says:

    Yep, this sucks. Cold please, or dry…I’ll take either – or both would even be fun!

  34. Evan -- Cedar Mill says:

    I’m seeing hints of colder air but it will likely turn to nothing.

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      Yup, I posted something about it. It’s not the greatest for really cold air (yet). Let’s hope it can refine and get better over the next few runs.

  35. Ken in Wood Village says:

    Thank you for the update Mark. Looks like we are in a wet pattern for awhile. It’s about time. We haven’t seen this type of pattern for awhile and I know some people will love it and some won’t!!

    Now going to what the models are showing. I have been noticing on the GFS and Euro that a lot of cold air will start forming up in Alaska. The models have been hinting a lot that it wants to try to head towards the PNW but for the longest time, it wasn’t showing this until now. The 00Z GFS is showing a shot of cold air coming down from Canada into the PNW. I know it’s in la la land but it’s a start.

    We’ll see what the 00Z Euro will show this run. I have been noticing on the Euro ensembles a artic outbreak around February 4th. We’ll see how things transpire between now and then.

    We could still be in for some excitement!! 🙂

  36. Larry says:

    The only reason last February was cold is that the El Nino strengthened. There is a weak correlation between strengthening El Ninos in February, and cooler than average temperatures in the PNW.

    This guy can explain it better than me. Trust me guys, the link is not a virus 🙂

  37. W7ENK says:

    You know, I just had the thought this morning actually, that it’s been really nice. Here we are, 23 days into January, and I haven’t once heard Joshua complain about a lack of rainfall, or how “unusually” dry it’s been. Not even one time since the beginning of the year. 23 days into 2020, with almost 6 inches of rain in the bucket as of last night… and yet now, on the wettest day of the year so far, with a whopping 0.78″ of rain since this day began, Joshua once again whines about it being too dry.

    Joshua, would you please, for the love of all things sacred, secular, and sanctimonious in this Universe, just… STAAAAAAHHHHP-PUH!!! JFC dude, you’re going to work yourself into a damm aneurysm over nothing more than water falling from the sky. Seriously, knock it off.

  38. W7ENK says:

    What a waste of short days and low sun angle.

  39. geo says:

    Book end winter!

  40. Emmanuel says:

    Hard too think we get another year with cold February weather making it three in a row My prediction this winter goes down with trace to no snow. All weather outlooks were wrong from the Omsi event regarding snow storms this winter here in Portland

  41. oldwxwatcher says:

    To sum things up ……. (….yawn….)

  42. Jason Hougak says:

    This weather is what being a true Oregonian is all about people. If ya don’t like it move. I wish weather would only get worse and this state would clear out. There’s much sunnier drier locations like Arizona and Kalifornia.

  43. Kirk Mattila says:

    Nice to see a dim hope for winter like weather 11-13 days out. This constant gray sucks. To be honest this is how I remember winter when I was a kid in the 80’s. Non stop rain.

  44. ocpaul says:

    And… if it were 30 degrees, we’d have 10 inches of snow right now.

    • ocpaul says:

      “It’s also interesting that our coldest temperature of winter was in November this year…again so far. 26 degrees the last two mornings of November during that cold snap around Thanksgiving. Salem hit 20 those mornings, and a 19 at Hillsboro.”

      Last year.

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