Snow Wrap; More Than Expected For Some of Us

9pm Tuesday…

That was exciting! All indications were that we’d see a burst of snow/rain moving across the metro area during the mid-late afternoon. But it ended up slightly cooler than expected = more snow coverage.

I was beginning to panic around 3:30-4pm as snow was falling heavily throughout the metro area; fearing a major bust was in progress. At that point it appeared ALL of the metro area could see significant sticking snow. Luckily, (this part worked right), precipitation was lighter and temps didn’t fall as much across most of central/north/east metro. Whew! And precipitation mainly stopped by 5pm putting an end to the event.

Here are the snow totals I have so far. Notice the official Portland total means we don’t have a measurable snowfall yet this winter. There was a TRACE at the Portland NWS forecast office in Parkrose

This is always difficult because two viewers in the same area will report different totals. For example I have a 1/2″ and a 1.5″ for Happy Valley! So 1″ seems good enough. We had no accumulation at KPTV, just off Hwy 26 @ Cornell on the westside. But just a couple miles away in the hills to the northeast someone reported 2″.

IN GENERAL, the white areas saw either nothing, a brief dusting, or less than 1/2″. In those areas the forecast was right on; a snowy afternoon with a brief accumulation anywhere for a short time. That happened in Clark County and a good chunk of Portland east of the Willamette River.

These maps look amazingly similar to the WRF-GFS don’t they? This was the final morning forecast

Alright let’s recap; I’ll go negative first…


  1. I didn’t forecast/expect Salem snow, or light totals around Silverton, Oregon City, or Clackamas county buttes (Happy Valley & Damascus). Total miss there. If only I would have paid attention to that WRF forecast a bit closer! It showed that possibility. But I’ve tended to ignore totals under 2″ due to this model “over-forecasting” light snow events in the past. Maybe that only should apply to onshore flow showers in the future. Lesson learned.
  2. Lower sticking snow in the West Hills than I forecast/expected. Temperatures a couple degrees colder than expected did the trick here. Snowy roads up there after I clearly said CLEAR ROADS METRO AREA for this afternoon
  3. Evaporative cooling was far stronger than I have seen in the past. For the geeks, I couldn’t believe Salem was 39 degrees with a dewpoint of 30 at 1pm, then one our later it was 32/30! Typically you would expect it to drop down to maybe 35-36. That was amazing.
  4. Retweeting a “NO” at the Oregonian referencing their “clickbaity” headline yesterday evening. “Oh how the turntables” was their reply as it began snowing today. So well-played! Lesson learned…you’ll get burned playing with fire kid…


Luckily this list is longer…

  1. Models and our forecasts had the general event nailed a couple days ahead of time. A dry morning followed by evaporative cooling leading to snow in the air for just about everyone, but only signficant snow in a few spots
  2. Heaviest snow was right where models showed (and we forecast). All those 2-5″ totals against the Coast Range were impressive! There was no widespread valley snow event.
  3. Much of the central/east/north metro area only saw snow in the air and/or brief and light accumulations. Most models showed this well. I’ll be ignoring the 3km NAM in these marginal events in the future.
  4. There was little to no effect on the evening commute; except up in the West Hills. We didn’t have any sort of December 29, 2009 traffic fiasco; but only 2-4 degrees colder may have done so!
  5. Temperatures rose again after the precipitation moved on north, that was well forecast.

That’s it for tonight. This was our last “close call” for now. Notice the ECMWF ensembles show mile conditions most of the next two weeks. Sure, wet and cool at times, but not many hints of lowland snow

For tonight, most of us remain above freezing with lots of cloud cover. There might be a few icy spots high in the West Hills or in some outlying areas IF we get some clearing. But I think that’ll be patchy

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

180 Responses to Snow Wrap; More Than Expected For Some of Us

  1. 5OClockCharlie says:

    Wow what the heck?! I’m seeing the complete opposite of what I saw just a few days ago. Instead of temperatures near or below freezing for early next week, it’s now showing temps in the mid to high 50s! Models seem to have pushed out the “really cold” beyond mid-Feb but given the flip-flop that’s happening, I doubt that’s even close to accurate.

    I was really looking forward to model agreement on the cold this morning. What a slap in the face!

    Mark where you at? We need some professional input on this

    • Tanis Leach says:

      After the January 2020 bust, there is nothing that really surprises me. Plus models seem to be worse 8 days plus out than in previous years.

    • Andrew says:

      I know! Unfortunately this game plays out a couple times per year. I’ve noticed it tends to happen at the earliest phases of these imminent incursions of arctic air. Early model runs tend to greatly exaggerate its spread before narrowing the cold band, usually east of rockies. That’s what appears to be happening here. Still hoping we can get some cold to settle into Columbia basin, opening us up to a back door, offshore snow event. But models not supporting that right now.

      • 5OClockCharlie says:

        Cliff Mass was saying “the blob” is weakening on his blog last week. I’m wondering if the changing effects from the blob combined with the vortex shenanigans and the push of arctic air down is confusing the models

    • Andrew says:

      I also warn about getting hopes up about Mark’s analysis. As others have noted, Mark isn’t going to play the what-if games like we all do. One commenter said he had a “warm bias.” I characterize it more as him having a “model bias” and right now models show nothing. I wouldn’t expect much more than the typical “no sign of lowland snow for next 10-14 days.” I can’t blame him. He’s appealing to broader audience and doesn’t want to see false expectations.

    • Al koholic says:

      Blame the Rockies

      • Mr T says:

        Blame the post 2013 climate change and broken models refusing to address it. Face it we are not in the same position as before due to too many things to list which none by themselves are a direct cause.

        • Tanis Leach says:

          Just curious, why do you put 2013 as the cut off?

          In my classes, I’ve always been told 1960 is the year where climate change started to accelerate.

  2. JohnD says:

    Amid much weather frustration, I—for one—have pretty much thrown in the towel. You would have thought—as some models were hinting a few days ago—that we might at least have gotten some fringe effects of the dramatic, lasting cold and snow now going on in the eastern third of the US. No such luck. Insult to injury. Absolutely nothing will be happening of significance here this week. After that, grant it, it is too early to say. But by then, mid-February will be approaching. I’m a positive person and an impassioned weather hobbiest—like a lot of us. But I have to say that I’ve lost all optimism for this winter season.
    Now its just climbing the walls until spring amid incessant weather news reports of storm after storm—seemingly impacting everywhere but here.

  3. Andy says:

    Interesting post by Cliff Mass on extreme cold going East of the Rocky Mountains with brutal cold hitting some areas…otherwise the Models are flip flopping all over…Would be nice to hear Marks thoughts on February.
    Also the placement of the high off our coast will make or break things for us on any cold or snow.

  4. Andrew says:

    Models appear to be stabilizing somewhat and the results are not particularly favorable for cold/snow. Looks like majority of cold air goes well to our east before retreating somewhat well into north. We look fairly cool for a period but nothing to signal snow and the pattern itself seems to be devolving against us. Plenty of time for a reversal and I’m certainly going to keep up with model runs. Amidst all the acrimonious back and forth here, I really enjoy the model interpretations from those of you with knowledge on the subject. With Mark posting just once every week or two, I find this section to be a more “real time” feed of what models are doing, especially as it relates to trends and possible outcomes based on patterns that exceed my very amateur interpretations. I also know that when that dialogue disappears it usually means models are not looking good.

  5. tim says:

    To w7.

  6. tim says:

    U showed a photo of a high of 38 at ur home a few days ago and yet the normal high for pdx is 48 how is that avg? .

    • W7ENK says:

      Yes, and I had a high of 54 yesterday, and a high of 52 the day before that. All in the last week, what would those average out to?


      Ohhhhhh, you thought I meant it was exactly 48 degrees every single day? No. That isn’t how this works, tim.

  7. tim says:

    Nws pdx climate summery for January highs u skewed up in the head trump supporter lin wood freak u argue with me just to argue look at the facts not ur own wireless thermometer that’s under the tree.

  8. tim says:

    We all should realize it has been more active this winter then the last two so far, mark did call it so let’s be grateful for that much at lest.

  9. OLIVER WATSON says:

    Does anyone have any technical insights into why the models are struggling so much? What are the specific mechanics of these things? I’ve never seen them struggle so much just a few days out

    • Anonymous says:

      No one has made a computer as intelligent as a human being, at least not the more educated of us, they just do what we ask of them, let that sink in and ask yourself the question again. Many more processes and faster, then the human trys to figure out what it means.

  10. Mountain Man says:

    Mark Nelsen, I think the commentary was trampled and left to rot in this Post. A new one soon please, even if it’s about how nobody understands what to expect. Thanks

  11. Mountain Man says:

    I’ve noticed several of you guys have in one way or another noted you appreciate my input or agree with me in the last week or so, just saying thank you. It’s nice to feel relevant, like I’m not just talking to trolls lol. I’ll try to ignore the noise and post now and then when something looks interesting.

    • JohnD says:

      Yeah Thanks! The nucleus of us have a firm, genuine weather passion and enjoy the banter from one another on Mark’s blog. Hard to understand the trolls with nothing better to do in their lives but propagate antagonism and ill will. Sign of the times, I guess. Here’s “Wishing!” for an interesting February!

      • Mr T says:

        Sorry but wishing for an exciting spring is NOT trolling. It’s being realistic at what our winter is and giving us other kinds of hope.

        What if our La Nina kicks in during the spring and summer months this time around instead of winter/spring?

    • Mr T says:

      Last spring was unusually cold at night all the way till May which clouds took over and put the kabosh on that. Though the few times we had clearing it dipped to the mid 30s and came close to a freeze but next time pay day came around Jim Goff a dollar short was found.

  12. JohnD says:

    Well at least 1/3 of the US is now experiencing a terrific snowstorm and frigid temperatures. Guarantee we are not included. Can this even remotely be considered “typical” in a La Niña winter? I’m a life long W Oregonian; my wife b in Massachusetts—with family still there. Not comparable climates, of course. But always frustrating nonetheless. We were driving around today, observing the changes in the City-scape.
    Mostly dry. The car thermo read 55’. Really?!
    So, any hope in salvaging our dismal, underperforming winter? Simply not sure. Better hurry up. The clock strikes February tomorrow.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hahaha! Good luck, but yes I think many of us and the experts think something will give towards mid-month. What that’ll be is speculation, but at least something happens maybe.

  13. Ted Stryker says:

    Would someone forward me the info on how to be a wishcaster? Is it in-person learning or via Zoom?

    • Tanis Leach says:

      Only go on your wishes, not on any evidence. That is wishcasting.

      Ex: Evidence is showing a low of 33 and high of 40 tomorrow, with rain (there is an inversion in place that would melt snow, even if below 32). Person A (actual forecaster) calls for a low of 33, a high of 40, and rain. Person B (wishcaster) ignores this evidence, and says 31 low, 36 high and 3″ of snow.

  14. W7ENK says:

    Fun fact: Today marks the 46th consecutive year without measurable snowfall at PDX on January 31st.

    Happy birthday, WeatherDan.

  15. Tanis Leach says:

    So in the next 14 days or so: It seems mostly certain that below average temperatures are coming. However, I do agree with Mountain Man’s assessment that we’re in a time too volatile to pin down anything. If its reassuring, the meteorology vacation curse may strike as it looks like I’m going to be forced to go down to Corvallis next week. Granted, except for those trips (average once a month), I only go outside of my house once a week for non-exercise purposes.

    For this time period (Feb 8th-13th) that it seems this cold snap might occur, this is a time where the record low temperatures are more ripe to fall. What I mean by that is there is a significant difference (9°F/5°C or more) between the airport temperature records and downtown, with downtown being colder. For example, the low temp record on the 12th is 24°F at the airport by 7°F downtown (would be 10°F today). The only other time periods where these exist are Jan 15-19th, Dec 12-14th. The reverse (airport colder than downtown) happened occurred Jan 31st-Feb 2nd. Disclaimer: I do not base weather predictions off of this, but note it for factual information.

    Just to be clear, the only thing I’m predicting is below average temperatures in the mid term. It looks like my peak winter timeframe of mid-January to early/mid-February may turn out to be right, but intensity of peak may be wrong. Tempted to add that to scorecard (would have to retroactively go back and re-calculate accuracy, but only issued a peak time for 19-20 and 17-18), thoughts on that? Yes this would contradict something I said at the winter weather conference that I don’t agree with predicting by month, but this year did give me a confidence boost in that regard.

  16. Joshua Lake Oswego says:

    Big forecast bust today unless .04” of rain from sunrise to sundown is considered a “wet day”.

    • Peter Christenson says:

      Or unless the day doesn’t end at midnight, which I believe is the custom.

      • Joshua Lake Oswego says:

        It has been and will be a bust by all standards.

        • W7ENK says:

          Quarter inch at the airport today.

          About a quarter inch Downtown.

          Not quite a quarter inch in SW Lake O (somewhat near you, I suppose)

          Exactly a quarter inch at my place, right across the river from you.

          Pretty much a quarter inch, widespread across most of the whole area today.

          A quarter inch is on par with basically every forecast for the day. Your gauge must be broken. Or maybe it’s improperly placed?

        • Joshua Lake Oswego says:

          The airport has .14’’ all day. .04’’ of that from sunrise to sunset. The forecast was ‘’rainy all day’’ or some variant of that. The models all showed much more rain than this. If I knew how to post photos, I would show you.

          The station you referenced is 1-2 miles north of me and is always wetter and cooler.

        • Peter Christenson says:

          True that. In fact, a great day for a game of golf!

  17. Mountain Man says:

    I think both Portland and Seattle NWS made good points this morning in there discussion. The models are going to put this through agitation for a couple more days, because these blocking patterns are so hard to nail down. Right now, sure they don’t look great, but such small different solutions make such different weather and difficult solutions to even try to predict. My last comment two days ago is still ringing true. About a 20% chance of very dry and boring, maybe some inversion, 20% lower snow levels to foothills, 20% very low snow levels near sea level, 20% very dry but much colder, and 20% colder with undercut moisture. Still very very little chance of any warm and wet situation in… Let’s call it 5 to 14 days now. Let’s call it a difficult long range forecasting period right now. I don’t expect that to change much in the next few days, there’ll be eye candy and letdowns if you only watch the basics of model output.

    • Mountain Man says:

      I’ll just add, if I take all the 1000 ensombles of the last 48 hours and I had to paint them into a forecast, I’d say, slightly below to below normal temperature and a decent chance of a brush with low elevation snow again at some point. That’s a good way to sum it up.

    • Peter Christenson says:

      I enjoy your reasoned and informed comments, MM. It does seem to me that most of those posting here would not be happy living anywhere but the Mount Washington Observatory. To my mind, the skies this fall and winter have yielded plenty of interest, not to say devastation, death and misery. I’d say it began on Labor Day, and you all know what happened then and thereafter. Up at my little cabin in Rhody three separate wind events have knocked the power out for weeks on end, and no fewer than three large trees have come crashing down on the cabin itself. Here at my home in Beaverton the great AR overwhelmed my sump pumps, sending a river of water into our finished basement against which we bailed, mopped, and squeegeed our asses off for four hours until 4 a.m. Call it a BR (Basement River).

      I also enjoyed our afternoon of snow and the inch of carrara it deposited on our lawn, however briefly. I have not been bored.

  18. Roland Derksen says:

    So much for January 2021. Has to be one of the dullest, least intresting Januarys in my years of observation- not no.1, but in the top 10 somewhere… Let’s move on and see what February will bring.

  19. Andy says:

    Last chance coming up for mid February for any excitement… otherwise time to think about spring…maybe Mark will give his opinion about the uncertainty of the models.

    • Chad says:

      Mark doesn’t want to get involved in this fantasy factory of think cold and snow 😂

      He’s warm biased and has no interest in wishcasting cold rain.

  20. Al koholic says:

    Euro models not looking good

  21. Andrew says:

    Models seem highly erratic beyond the coming weekend. Not sure it’s sensical to draw any conclusions until we see more stability. The trend towards super cold does appear to be abating from what we saw a few days ago but still a lot of uncertainty beyond 7 days.

  22. tim says:

    We can’t complain it’s been below normal for a week now which is a amazing in a warming climate and now this week is forecasted to be normal temps and the avg high is now 49, time to get my mower ready to cut the grass soon.

    • Tanis Leach says:

      I respectfully disagree with a portion of your comment. Our averages are based on the 1981-2010 averages, which means assuming our surprisingly linear warming of .2F per decade, we should be .5F warmer than 1995, the midpoint of the averages. So if this cold snap happened in 1995, it would only be .5F cooler, so our 35 is 34.5. The week below average I’m not complaining about.

      • tim says:

        How do u explain our insanely hot summers the past 8 years even mark mention it, global. warming is real far more the then .5fF per decade.

    • W7ENK says:

      I’ll disagree on the grounds that our high temps have been exactly AT average over the past week, but the overnight lows are still above.

      I don’t know where tim pulls his numbers from, but I’d venture to guess it’s not a pleasant place. The rest of us get our numbers from official sources.

      • tim says:

        Nws pdx climate summery for January highs u skewed up in the head trump supporter lin wood freak u argue with me just to argue look at the facts not ur own wireless thermometer that’s under the tree.

        • W7ENK says:

          Well, those were definitely words, but strung together like that, they didn’t really make much sense, tim. Punctuation would really help your ability to convey the ideas you’re trying to get across.

          The mouth foaming doesn’t help, either.

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