No Skiing/Snowboarding Yet, But No Need To Panic

9:30pm Tuesday…

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.

What’s ahead?

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:

  1. This extremely low early December snow depth is unusual, but it has happened in the past
  2. There’s no reason (at this point) to believe this means a poor ski season or low snow year in the Cascades
  3. 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!
  4. Don’t panic! Be patient…

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

58 Responses to No Skiing/Snowboarding Yet, But No Need To Panic

  1. Oliver Watson says:

    From what I’m seeing right now the models are very unreliable even 3 days out. Our storm that looked like a nice little rain producer Monday looks like it’s fizzling out. I wouldn’t believe anything more than 2 days out at this point

  2. Joshua Lake Oswego says:

    Looking awfully dry here for at least the next week. It has actually been very dry since October 13th. Salem and Eugene both finished November below average for precipitation. Portland was <1” above normal. The north/south gradient continues to live on as Olympia, Tacoma, Seattle, and Bellingham were all way above average. Some western Washington locations had their wettest November and/or wettest fall on record. Not so for us here in Upper California.

    • Zach says:

      PDX had a pretty wet fall though. Almost 14″ since mid-Sept. Average is probably around 9-10″?

      Agreed though south of Salem they aren’t faring as well.

  3. Andrew says:

    It’s really interesting analyzing the models right now and seeing so much contradiction. There is a ton of snow noise in both GFS and EURO ensembles over next two weeks. A majority of members for sure. But at same time, the 850mb temps really never drop below -5 or -6 and there also isn’t any indication of cold air pooling up in columbia basin to get pulled in as lows approach. What I’m left to conclude is that these models are greatly inflating the impact of our cooler ocean temps. This seems like a classic 2,000 foot snow level type pattern not one at all favorable to sea level snow. I don’t recall ever seeing this level of dissonance between temp and snow forecasts. it’s like the models are getting worse not better! Anyone know what’s up?

    • I don’t think they’re inflating the cooler ocean temps, I don’t think they even take it into account

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree, there’s not much to support what the models have been giving us in the operational runs nor the ensembles when taking all the data into consideration. Something is always off.

      When I zoom out to the North America view on both the Euro and GFS, I still see a lot of tropical air and moisture coming in for the foreseeable future, so even if the 850mb temps drop to support snow, it looks unsustainable for anything more than an overnight event.

      I would love to see Mark dive into the details a little bit on these issues in the next blog post.


  4. 12z RDPS showing snow in Portland, the 12z NAM also does.

  5. Ken in Wood Village says:

    I have to head to bed soon so I’m just going to say this about the 00Z GFS. If we went with what it shows, there could be a snowstorm around the 14th. That’s a long way off and probably won’t happen but it’s interesting to see it on the model 🙂

    Goodnight, everyone. 🙂

    • Roland Derksen says:

      I may be seeing snow in the air(if not on the ground) by this weekend. Quite a low snow level here now- about 600-700 feet in the forecast. I’ll keep a watch on it.

  6. tim says:

    I looked at the sst today and noticed the pdo has really weakened and gotten smaller in size recently, does anybody know why?

    • Tanis Leach says:

      Part of it is because a high PDO anomaly like that (defined as a value of +/-3 or more from normal) is extremely difficult to hold for long periods of time. Going back to 1900, a value of -3 or less has only occurred for one month time periods each time it occurred. Going back to 1850, only once (1894) has it exceeded one month of a -3 value or more (3 months in a row).

  7. tim says:

    Off topic, if seahawks beat the 49ers sunday which they will they will make it to the playoffs and hopefully to the superbowl,there’s still hope.

    • I hate to be that guy but, the Seahawks have 3 wins, they are the 2nd worst team in the conference, they are the worst team in the division, I want to see them win the superbowl, but it’s impossible.

  8. W7ENK says:

    Interesting to watch the extended GOES-West loop. The AR that’s been punching SW BC in the face over the last several days is finally sagging back South, and just when it looked like the moisture was breaking up as the rain-train was going to sag over us, there’s a whole new slug of subtropical moisture regrouping offshore…

    https://www.star.nesdis.noaa.gov/GOES/sector_band.php?sat=G17&sector=np&band=GEOCOLOR&length=240&dim=1

    We might get wetter than expected for once…

  9. Ken in Wood Village says:

    Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen 🙂

    I worked 9 hours today and I’m a little tired, but I really wanted to post on what I am seeing in the models.

    I really think things could be very interesting next week. I see a chance of very low snow levels starting on Sunday night and Monday morning. I think Portland could see snow flying in the air but not sticking to the surfaces. I also see another chance of snow flying around the 10th to the 11th. At this point, I don’t know what will happen just because it’s over a week away.

    You’re probably asking yourself, “why am I saying this now?” I just looked at the 12Z EPS model. I’m looking at the “24-hourly snowfall (inches) 50-perturbed members + Control” and a little over half have snow amounts. The thing is this model goes out to the 17th and it has snow amounts on each day up to the 17th. I’m not sure if we will see a snowstorm but there is the possibility of seeing snow (or chunky rain) flying in the air.

    Like I said, I think next week could be very interesting. We need to see how this all plays out.

    Oh, this morning before I went into work, it felt warm but when the weak frontal system came through, I could tell a big difference in the air temp and still can feel it right now. We have a North to Northeast air flow right now. With the next system coming in on Saturday, I think the air will just get colder.

    That’s it for now. I’ll watch the GFS for a little bit. I need to go to bed early tonight because I need to get up earlier tomorrow morning for work. If I see anything, I’ll post something. Have a good evening 🙂

  10. tim says:

    Below normal temps dosent always mean artic cold but it’s a start.

  11. Andy says:

    Noticed the CPC has turned cold…good news for the mountains and possibly for valley snow. I think the model runs will get very interesting as we head further into December.

  12. I’m going to put my money on it, Skii season starts next Saturday or Friday.

  13. Anonymous says:

    12Z GFS gives us snow on the 6th again and a lot more afterwards. 00Z Euro says forget it. I think somebody else here mentioned it, but I’m guessing 1000′ and above will see something within the next couple of weeks. I predict the valley will get skunked but I hope (pray really) that I’m wrong.

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      I posted my thoughts about what will possibly be happening the next couple of weeks really early in the morning and when I was at work, I listen to Good Day Oregon. Jeff showed the graphic on were the snow levels will be for the coming week. If I remember correctly, snow levels will be around the West Hills (I think that’s what it showed but I’ll watch the news tonight) but I do remember seeing the snow levels being around the West Hills by next Thursday. This was what I was thinking and seeing channel 12 showing the same thing makes me feel better in my analysis of what I’m seeing in the models.

      Like I said before, baby steps. Things will happen but it will take a little time. I need to get back to work. See you all later 😉🤗❄

    • Andrew says:

      Agree with both you and Ken here. I think because of the intricacies of our geography the models really don’t do a good job deciphering a 1000-foot snow level event from a sea level one. Tanis also touched on the issue of models bleeding snow into valley that’s clearly meant to be confined to higher elevations owing to resolution issues. The atmospheric conditions in these models suggest a typical 1000-2000 foot snow level scenario over a fairly extended period of time. But i also agree with Ken that the general pattern is significantly better than certainly anything we’ve seen lately and better than anything we saw last December, and the December before that. The negative spin is that it’s a fairly common winter pattern that historically hasn’t equated to arctic air incursions with any significant frequency. But i’ll agree it’s a baby step.

      But you all are missing the main headline: the first flakes of season have made an appearance in the weather channel app 15 day forecast! We did it! Victory 🤣

  14. Ken in Wood Village says:

    I thought I would post something…lol 😉

    First, thanks Mark for the update 🤗

    Ok, I want to be clear about what I’ve said in the past. I have always said that we “are” going into a pattern change. I didn’t know if we would get a Artic Outbreak (yet).

    What’s happening is we are finally getting into a cooler pattern. Instead of having the storms coming from the Southwest, they are coming from the Northwest (much colder systems and we can finally get some much needed snow for the mountains and the ski resorts).

    What I think people are forgetting is this is just the start of the winter season. The pattern is setting up so eventually we can get either a Artic Outbreak or a good snowstorm. Now that we are in the Northwest flow, all it will take is for a High pressure system to amplify off the Coast and bring down Artic air into our area. I think by the middle of the month, we could see our first Artic air or snow 🤗❄

    The one thing about this new flow, it’s going to cool the atmosphere above us too. We have been way to warm lately and because of that, it’s not a good environment to support snow. After awhile (with a Northwest flow) the atmosphere will be much cooler, so after a few storms come in, the snow levels will keep lowering and eventually we’ll get a cold enough storm that we could see snow in the West Hills. 😉

    It’s all about setting up the environment. I know everyone wants snow and have it now (trust me, so do I) but it’s baby steps for now. The way the rains started this fall season, I’m guessing we won’t have to wait long for snow 🤗

    I’m going to get ready for work 🙃 I’ll keep looking at the models and let you all know what I’m thinking 🤔 Have a good day 😊🤗❄

  15. Zach says:

    00z gfs gives a Dec 2008 redo…

    • Zach says:

      Or at least its close to it. AK ridge needs to move a tad east.

    • Evan -- Cedar Mill says:

      LOL what are you talking about? Portland doesn’t get below freezing at any point during the entire run….

      • Zach says:

        Hadn’t check temps yet. Yeah there is too much onshore the whole time which keeps PDX from getting much.

        Its close to being epic though. Gave Clark county over 1′ and something insane like 7′ in Cascade Locks.

        • Zach says:

          Granted I don’t think the GFS can even see that Cascade Locks is at only 170′ AGL.

        • Tanis Leach says:

          Even in the Valleys sometimes the resolution is too coarse to pick out many places. Unless its showing it for the entire area (its not, we’ll see what GEFS says, but still too far out to forecast), take it with a grain of salt.

    • I’m up for that!

  16. W7ENK says:

    Amazing sunset from my back yard this evening!

  17. Weatherdan says:

    63 at 2:00PM. The 11th day of at least 60 since veterans day in Salem. By the end of next week it looks like we may see some snow down to the foothills. Not on the valley floor with this latest forecast but getting close. I believe we will have sticking snow before the end of December. Don’t give up hope on this Winter just yet. In 2008 and 2016 we had warm Autumns and cold and snowy Winters. Peace.

  18. W7ENK says:

    Well, since the models all seem to have vaporized the idea of a significant cooldown in the foreseeable future, can we talk about the fact that today — the first day of December — is a beautiful, comfortable, remarkable blue sky sunshine-y ~65 degrees in the neighborhood?

    • Zach says:

      Disagree, the GEFS & EPS are all showing a pretty strong signal for a colder pattern after about hr 150.

      I doubt we actually get snow out of it, but certainly a cool down from the current blowtorch.

      • W7ENK says:

        Interesting, because the CMC-GDPS, RDPS, NCEP-GFS and NAM, UKMET-G, ECMWF-HRES, DWD-ICON, and JMA all say nope. Cold air gets shoved down the backside of the Rockies while we build a bridge up the coastline. Same as yesterday, except more models now agree with that solution.

        • Zach says:

          By “foreseeable future” are you talking about within 7 days?

          You said there was no sign of a significant cool down. That is absolutely not true. It is 65 today in some areas, and by this weekend will likely be back to around average temps for early December, possibly not even breaking 50.

        • W7ENK says:

          By “significant cooldown” I mean temperatures below or well below normal.

          By “forseeable future” I mean within a reasonable model forecast period going out 10-14 days, though to be fair, some of those models I listed don’t go out that far.

        • Zach says:

          Fair enough.

    • W7ENK says:

      And for anyone doubting that claim of “~65 degrees in the neighborhood,” have a look-see.

      It’s ridiculous in the Heart of The Dome today. I took a comfortable half-hour Noontime walk in shorts and a tank top.

      • Lurkyloo says:

        Erik, I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit. The Dome was most likely lovely for you today, but your outline of it kinda looks like a middle-finger sign. You’ve been so mad at it in the past. I just hope it doesn’t hate on you this winter! 🙂

  19. Zach says:

    PDX finishes out November with 6.43″ of rain. Average is 5.45″. Since mid September we have had 13.91″. Pretty good if you ask me considering how dry the previous 6-7 months had been.

  20. Roland Derksen says:

    Well, I’m glad November is over: I saw a new record for wettest month ever with 18.33 inches. I’m sure other locations in Southern BC had even more. Now let’s see what happens in December!

  21. W7ENK says:

    Thanks is for the update, Mark.

    Hoping the ski resorts start getting some snow soon, would hate to see a Winter 2014/15 redux…

  22. Mike Buffering says:

    Thanks again

  23. I don’t comment much here, but saw that no one posted a link to Euro ensembles on the previous post. Free Euro ensembles chart does in fact exist. From Weather.US. They just added the presentation to the chart some months ago.
    https://weather.us/forecast/5746545-portland/ensemble/euro/temperatur850

    • I actually do use that, but you can’t look at previous runs and it takes awhile for them to release the runs. But I guess it’s still good.

      • Yeah, and from what I understand, weathermodels.com and weatherbell doesn’t provide the euro spaghgetti charts on personal forecaster packages. Just on commercial packages that is provided to tv stations or the NWS.

    • Mountain Man says:

      That’s cool Mike! At least there is a place people can see it for free that I didn’t know about, regardless if it’s got it’s limitations.

  24. Thanks for the post mark!

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