Weather forecasters from multiple Oregon agencies gathered in Portland last week to divine the looming winter’s likely weather. Their conclusion is that it will be either cold or warm, with lots of snow or maybe not so much. Whichever we get, some of the winter may be a wild ride with some severe storms, possible arctic outbreaks, and lots of milder, but wet, weather.

“Based on the years that have similar patterns of Pacific ocean temperatures, 1969-70, 1977-78, and 1980-81,” said Oregon Department of Agriculture meteorologist Pete Parsons, “it should be mild and tranquil early in November, with a chance of a cold outbreak, then turning stormy in December, with generally mild temperatures. Maybe a little cold weather in early January, but then milder, and typically mild in February, too.”

The problem with forecasting this winter with certainty is that we are in an “ENSO-Neutral” weather pattern, Parsons said.

El Nino, a pattern which usually brings more severe winters to Wallowa County, is fading. And it’s as yet unclear whether weather over the Pacific is shifting back to chilly El Nino patterns, moving into La Nina, which tends to bring milder, drier winters, or just staying in neutral, and keeping us in limbo for awhile.

“We can get quite a variety of weather in ENSO neutral years,” Parsons said.

Overall expectations for northeast Oregon during the three month period November 1 –Jan 30 are an average of 2.7 degrees warmer and 116% of average precipitation, near to above average

“The bulls-eye for really cold weather would be earlier in the winter, from late November through early January,” Parsons said. “Later in the winter because of the ocean off the Pacific coast and gulf of Alaska being warmer than normal you tend to get more jet stream into here. When the Jet stream is aiming at us directly off the Pacific, we tend to not get the arctic outbreaks coming down into Oregon.”

More specifically, month-by-month, in northeast Oregon November temperatures should be average, with precipitation only 76% percent of normal. But in December, the pattern of upper atmospheric circulation changes, bringing above average temperature across the state as a whole, and temperatures almost 5 degrees F above normal in NE Oregon. Wallowa County is predicted to garner 135% of normal December precip. However, the higher temperatures may be bad news for our snowpack. There’s a similar pattern expected for January, with temperatures in Northeast Oregon about 4 degrees F above normal, and again, 135% precipitation. Parsons suggests that January temperature may be chilly enough to keep a substantial snowpack at higher altitudes, though. “The jury’s still out on that,” he said.

The National Weather service’s long term forecast also predicts warmer temperatures, but indicates an equal chance of wetter or drier conditions. The Old Farmer’s Almanac also suggests a wet winter, but is more pessimistic about low temperatures and stormy periods and a potential “snowpocalypse”.

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