Thanksgiving has come and gone, along with all that snow that fell last week in the Cascades. About a week ago the snow was between 6-18″ deep at the Mt. Hood ski resorts. But that is all gone now. Here’s the view at Mt. Hood Meadows base area yesterday morning; most of those patches are now gone.
And way up at 6,000′ at Mt. Bachelor’s base area
Having mainly bare slopes at these elevations IS unusual as we head into the first few days of December, yet not unheard of. Check out snow depth on November 29th each year at the SNOTEL site in Timberline’s ski area
It’s the lowest since 2008. In fact I still have the picture from a blog post on December 1st, 2008
What happened later that year? Well, it looked like this on December 23rd at my home near Corbett
Yep, a cold wave arrived around mid-month and snow started accumulating not only in the Cascades but down in the valleys as well. The Mt. Hood Test Site (SNOTEL) went from just about nothing in early December to just under 9 FEET of snow on the ground by New Year’s Day! Over 500″ fell that winter. Proof that things can change quickly this time of year. Mt. Hood Meadows put out a nice “scatter plot” graphic today. The image below shows how much snowfall they get each season vs. opening date. An average winter picks up around 450″ at that 5,400′ elevation. There DOES seem to be a tendency for lower seasonal totals with later starts, but not dramatic most years.
It appears that only 5 of the past 26 seasons have started this late (sometime beyond December 5th). 3 of those ended up with reasonable conditions, two not so much.
The reason it’s been so mild has been stronger than normal upper-level ridging over the West Coast. That’s sending lots of warm-ish storms inland just to our north (NW Washington flooding). That general pattern continues for at least another 7 days. Our 7 day forecast for Government Camp says no chance for skiing through at least the 8th of the month
This chart shows the 850 millibar temperature forecast for the next 16 days…from the European model. That’s temperature in Celsius around pass elevation around Mt. Hood. The green line shows the ensemble average, and I’ve put a yellow highlight at “0”. Anytime temperatures are near/below that line precipitation would generally fall as snow in the Cascades. Notice there is a change just beyond our 7 day forecast. IN GENERAL, models are expecting cooler conditions from that point forward, and they’ve been hinting at that general change for the past 1-2 weeks.
Other models are similar, so to summarize:
- This extremely low early December snow depth is unusual, but it has happened in the past
- There’s no reason (at this point) to believe this means a poor ski season or low snow year in the Cascades
- There’s good reason to believe we will see a pattern change, kicking the ski season into gear, about 7-10 days from now…maybe some skiing for the 2nd weekend of December!
- Don’t panic! Be patient…
Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen