Warmest Day of 2020 Today; Plus A Look Back At Our BORING Winter

6pm Thursday…

What a fantastic stretch of March weather we’ve been seeing this week!  It’s a total counter-programming to all the depressing virus/financial news.  Quite the contrast isn’t it?

We’ve hit at least 64 in Portland today, quite possibly a degree warmer.  Official highs are reported at 5pm & 11pm (every six hours) in the warmer part of the year.  The entire Willamette Valley was warm today

Todays Observed Highs OrWa 2017

Very weak offshore flow tomorrow morning, plus a slightly warmer atmosphere overhead should push our afternoon temperatures up 1-2 degrees.  This means 65-68 in the Willamette Valley and Columbia River Gorge.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 70 degree high at The Dalles tomorrow.

Weak onshore flow Saturday knocks temps down a few degrees, then they pop back up a few degrees Sunday.  Regardless, we have three more sunny/warm afternoons on tap.

This evening is the “Vernal Equinox”, specifically 8:49pm PDT.   That’s the point in our orbit around the sun where the sun is right over the equator.

The Seasons Spring Explained

Officially spring begins on March 1st in the northern hemisphere, that’s as it relates to weather

Mark Spring Definition_MeteorologicalvsAstronomicalSeasons

So how did winter turn out?  That’s December through February.  It was warmer and drier than average; very much acted like a weak El Nino winter.  I presented a Winter 2020 recap at the Oregon AMS meeting last week.  Since I know lots of you have PLENTY OF TIME, here’s a link to the 42 minute video of my presentation.

Just a few highlights follow…What a boring winter!




It was the lowest snowpack for Christmas Vacation we’ve seen on Mt. Hood in decades.  Remember Skibowl wasn’t able to operate the lifts until early January!


But the big snow in mid-January kicked the ski season into gear big-time.  Over the last month, snowfall has tapered off along with lots of sunshine.  So right now we’re running a bit below normal but there is still plenty on the ground in the Cascades; no sign of a drought.  Lots of snow to come next week too.  Unfortunately ski season appears to have ended early in the Cascades due to COVID-19.  We’ll see if some resorts try to re-open in April.


Of course last Saturday we finally had our “big snow” for the winter.  0.5″ in the city.


This winter completes another decade weatherwise.  Take a look at Portland snowfall each decade since the airport weather station was established in 1940.  Divide any of those numbers by 10 and year get the average yearly snowfall.  When I started my career in 1991, that downward trend was a big deal.  But now the average yearly snowfall in Portland hasn’t changed significantly in 30 years.  Interesting isn’t it?  Especially considering winter temps have continue to gradually warm.  More occasional large storms but fewer small snow events?  Maybe, but I haven’t looked into it.


Snowfall records go further back in time in Downtown Portland.  Since 1973 those records have been taken at KGW-TV.  There you see the big snow years of the late 1800s and then a gradual decline since that time.  Again, you see it hasn’t changed much downtown the past 30-40 years.


There you go, we just “endured” a very boring winter that was milder and drier than aveage.  On to spring!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

24 Responses to Warmest Day of 2020 Today; Plus A Look Back At Our BORING Winter

  1. Jason Hougak says:

    Timberline at its highest snow base of the season at 141”. Its such a shame we can’t go enjoy it.

    • Grizzly Bear says:

      Really… suck it up son and do your part, not a time to be selfish., Just be glad that you, your family and your community are safe and well. When I read a post like yours it makes me feel sad that so many people still don’t know how to do their part and not despair over a few lost entertainment moments such as this.

    • MasterNate says:

      March 1st it was 145″ That was the highest of the season. Currently its tied with 145″ again. Looking at models I don’t see why it couldn’t go up and over 160″. That would be great for our water year and farming.

  2. runrain says:

    A hint of 70 deg weather a week or so down the road?

  3. Jason Hougak says:

    Saw maps of air pollution down around the globe in response to people staying at home. The one thing this pandemic allows is for us to see changes that would not occur in our normal lives.

  4. Ken in Wood Village says:

    I was just thinking about this and maybe some people could chime in. I wonder how the weather will react with less carbon emissions in the air. I know it hasn’t been a very long time, but seeing what’s been happening around the world (like Italy and China’s air pollution) it makes you wonder if the weather will change in the short or long term.

    • boydo3 says:

      The earth is breathing a sigh of relief now but will be choking in pollution when factories eventually ramp up.

  5. W7ENK says:

    Had a weird, if not totally freak occurrence this morning. I’ll let my official Spotter Report tell the story:

    C### Spotter Report 20200326.1300

    Milwaukie, Oregon
    45° 26′ XX.XX” N
    122° 36′ XX.XX” W

    Elevation: 155 ft
    Thursday, 26 March, 2020
    Precipitation: SLEET


    At approximately 0500 this morning, I woke to a brief downpour of very heavy sleet.  It only lasted for a minute or two, but it was enough to cover all surfaces in a thin layer of silver pellets that completely melted away by sunrise.  A look at the radar showed this small shower popped up just a few miles upstream from my location.  2m temperature at the time was 35F.  Upon quick visual inspection, I do not believe the pellets were small hail, they had the distinct appearance of frozen raindrops, or sleet.

    Here’s an interesting tidbit surrounding the circumstances: I later discovered that only a few minutes before this little sleet shower popped up, Clackamas Fire responded to a commercial structure fire at roughly the same location as the shower’s origin.  Without looking over Sounding data from this morning, I would theorize that the atmosphere was just unstable enough to allow the heat and steam column from that fire to punch up high enough to trigger the convection.  With temperatures hovering just above freezing at the surface, it would make sense that the heat and moisture rising from this firefighting effort condensed and then froze, falling down stream to the ENE (over my neighborhood) as a quick burst of heavy sleet.

    Definitely something to ponder.

    Stay safe and healthy!
    Thank you,
    ~Erik C###

    Animated Radar


    • Grizzly Bear says:

      Wow, weather sure is slow over there! Creative weather or is it virtual weather?

  6. Jason Hougak says:

    It seems non winters are followed by non summers. We will see. I’m ready for a record strong La Niña.

  7. Ken in Wood Village says:

    If we go by what the GFS is showing lately, we could be in a very cool pattern for awhile. With most of us staying home to keep everyone safe, having the cooler and wetter weather isn’t so bad right now. When this is all over, hopefully we will see warmer and nicer weather then.

    I hope everyone is doing well. Stay safe and healthy (inserts hearts here) 🙂

  8. High Desert Mat says:

    Hope everyone is staying safe. Had a bunch of graupel showers today. About an inch of snow in a bend this morning as well. March, go figure!!

  9. Paul D says:

    Did somebody say it’s spring?

  10. Jason Hougak says:

    Had a dusting of snow at 6pm. Woke up to about 1/2” of snow from what it looks like. Very crazy weather. Spent all weekend working in the yard. Love it though, March has been a very fun weather month.

  11. W7ENK says:

    So, apparently The Dome™️ is hard at work today. Current weather, according to my work computer.

    Now, I’ve been sitting here in my new at-home office all afternoon next to an open window, and I ain’t heard nuthin’… 🤔

  12. W7ENK says:

    Hit 70 degrees yesterday. Almost there again today, but high clouds are moving in now.

    If you go out and look, there’s a big ring around the sun right now!

  13. Andrew says:

    Thanks for recap Mark. Crazy to see how much snow Portland received in the late 19th century, and to some extent through the mid 20th century. Couple questions: how confident are we that these historical totals that go back more than a hundred years are accurate (20 inches of snow per year in Portland for a decade feels unbelievable)? Second, what accounts for such a big drop off; is it simply climate change or are there other macro meteorological factors at play that might guide our ability to forecast in future? Anyone with knowledge on such topics is invited to respond!

    • Kyle says:

      Since 2012 in particular the oceans have shifted and changed. The models do NOT reflect that so assume it’s what things used to be so thus show artic air when there isn’t any.

  14. Roland Derksen says:

    Very dry finish to this winter- if it wasn’t for the 2nd of this month, this would be at least the second driest March here for my records(provided of course the rest of the month is much the same).

  15. Jason Hougak says:

    16th low for March at or below freezing. Starting to feel like Central Oregon with the nice afternoon highs near 60 and freezing nights.

    • Grizzly Bear says:

      Here in Kamiah, Id we are having high temps in the mid 60’s and had a 24 degree low last night. Very pleasant afternoons.

  16. JERAT416 says:

    Crazy how we started winter with a super cold Thanksgiving, and ended it with a super cold mid March weekend! Between that was dullsville. Now let’s enjoy these nice days!

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