Prediction: Cold, wet winter


Oregon State University climatologist George Taylor has issued his annual fall and winter forecast, and it says snow might be in Western Oregon's future.

"If history repeats itself, then we will more likely than not get some snow at low elevations this winter," said Taylor, who also predicts above-average snowpack in the mountains.

For the fall, Taylor sees warmer temperatures than average statewide and above-average precipitation in south-central Oregon. In the winter, Taylor forecasts colder-than-normal temperatures in Western Oregon and above-average precipitation statewide.

To arrive at his predictions, Taylor takes climate data for the current year and compares it with past years, looking for times when conditions were most similar to what they are now.

For this forecast, Taylor drew on the similarities between now and four other winters &

1970-71, 1988-89 and two from the 1950s.

In three of those four years, the Willamette Valley got snow.

The winter of 1988-89 included a tremendous Arctic outbreak, Taylor said, with single-digit temperatures and heavy valley snows. It was preceded by flooding, and followed by a damaging windstorm in March.

"It was a crazy winter," he said.

The forecast doesn't mean you should rush out to buy a shovel or book a winter trip to Los Angeles.

"Extremes are always difficult to predict," Taylor said. "And snow is an extreme event here."

Taylor's much more confident in the rest of his forecast, which is largely driven by what's shaping up to be a moderate La Nina event, where waters in the tropical Pacific run cooler than average.

"Historically, moderate La Ninas tend to be pretty wet, and strong La Ninas tend to be really cold," Taylor said. "I will not be shocked nor surprised if we get at least one big rainfall event with possibly some local flooding."

This year's prediction calls for winter to come on gradually, with conditions in October tending toward warmer and drier than usual. That starts to turn around in November, with December and January turning wet and February and March cold.

It's the reverse of last year, when the wacky weather in the first half of the season gave way to a ho-hum second half.

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