Warm January turns into a Chilly February Start

January 29, 2020

9pm Wednesday…

I feel like we’ve done this before.  Oh yes, it was last year.  A very mild and boring winter, then suddenly it cools off starting Super Bowl Sunday.  Yep, it happened last year.  Although this year we don’t see a lowland snow event in the days following Sunday.

First, the warm weather.  January has been very warm compared to the 30 year average.  The only cool period was mid-month when we flirted with low elevation snow and a cold Gorge wind was blowing.

Almanac Monthly Temps So Far

As of this evening, with two days left to go, we’re running 5th warmest January on record.  But with two warm days ahead, including a 60 degree day Friday (assuming rain shifts north), we could end up at #2

Record Warm Month Top Five

And of course it’s been wet!  It’s so nice to see solid rain for day after day; that’s after a very dry October through December.  January has been the wettest month in almost three years; the wettest since 10″+ fell in February 2017

Rain Record PDX

But don’t complain!  If you live in the foothills of, or in, the Coast/Cascade Ranges it has been a huge soaker.  Some spots are approaching four feet of rain!  Again, this isn’t record-setting, but it seems “crazy wet” because we’ve gone through two relatively dry winters

Rain Coast Cascade Range

What’s ahead?

Three more very mild days.  An upper-level ridge strengthens over us through Friday.


That pushes just about all the rain north of the Columbia River by Friday midday or so.  There should be 12-18 hours dry later Friday through early Saturday.  And the temps should be amazing!  Highs Friday should reach 60 or above from the metro area south through western Oregon.  Even the lower elevations of Eastern Oregon will reach the 60s (Hermiston, Pendleton) and maybe central Oregon.

Then a sharp cold front moves across the region Saturday evening, dropping snow levels from around 9,000′ midday Saturday to 1,000′ by Sunday morning.   Check out the drop

ECMWF Snow Level From 850mb Temps LONG TERM

We’ve had “mixed showers” in our forecast for Sunday off/on the past four days for this reason.  It’s the “chilly onshore flow showers” snow setup that rarely produces sticking snow at the lowest elevations.  Expect some snow on the Coast Range summits Sunday morning, and well down into the Cascade foothills.  Skiing will be MUCH better Sunday too, fresh snow!

Could it snow in the lowlands Saturday night or Sunday? 

Yes, in the air, or at least mixed with rain, but sticking snow on the ground is very unlikely.  850mb temps are marginal, around -6 to -8 and we have onshore flow in progress.  Showers taper off Sunday night and we should be dry Monday.  Yes, totally dry for ONE DAY!

Rain returns at some point next Tuesday, and of course there’s always the possibility it starts as snow.  But what models are showing is a classic setup for a quick warmup.  Breezy southerly wind arrives at the same time as precipitation.  Maybe a brief mix in spots, then a snow level jump up to at least 3,000′.  The ECMWF model agrees with basically no lowland snow through next Wednesday.

ECMWF Snow Accumulation

By Wednesday of next week (February 5th), models show the pool of cold air has moved off to the east


But then three major models are hinting another pocket of cold air may drop down the West Coast about 10 days from now.  Check out the ECMWF, GEM, & GFS models for next Saturday the 8th…looks chilly!  I’ll be watching this closely

The ECMWF ensemble chart today showed a HUGE variety of solutions beyond the middle of next week.  Some ensemble members were VERY cold, others just remain mild.  It’s 8-10 days away so plenty of time to wait and see how modeling comes together.

For now, enjoy the warm three days ahead!  I’ll be back at work for the shows Sunday evening after the Super Bowl.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen