This winter's weather? Big difference of opinion!
The 25th annual "Winter Weather Forecast Conference" of the Oregon Chapter of the American Meterological Society (AMS) took place this year, as usual, on the last Saturday morning of October – this year, the 28th – in the auditorium of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. The day was sunny, and the room was packed.
Although the presenting Meteorologists made it clear they were just taking their best guess, and went through lengthy explanations of how they do it, they never are all in agreement. But this year, the three forecasts offered in the meeting were all strikingly different.First, though, the agenda called for Mark Nelson, Meteorologist with KPTV and KPDX, to give his droll and well-illustrated presentation of how the previous winter actually turned out, including making note of when the forecasts diverged widely from reality. This year, that centered on the unexpected eight-inch snowfall on the evening of January 10.
It was actually one of four snow events in the past winter, with the previous smaller one – on December 14th – leading to "the worst traffic nightmare ever in Portland", despite only a bit over two inches of snow in most parts of the city. If you were driving that evening you remember it; some drivers and some kids on school buses did not get home until nearly midnight. Some cars were stuck downtown on the same block for hours.
However, the four snow events last winter represented a personal triumph for Kyle Dittmer, the veteran forecaster with the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Council and also a PCC science teacher, who last year predicted four snow events in Portland – with two of them fairly significant. When he took the podium he conceded that some other elements of his forecast were a bit off, but he absolutely nailed it on the snow.And, Dittmer went on to foresee pretty much the same winter conditions in Portland this winter – and he predicts FIVE snow events in the Rose City this year.Meantime, the newest addition to the National Weather Service at the Portland Airport, Evan Bentley presented the official winter forecast for his agency, which was "near normal", which he conceded was a bit bland. He pointed out that although average precipitation was projected for here this winter, the temperatures were forecast to be slightly cooler than normal for the winter as a whole, which could suggest a little snow perhaps.The third and last forecaster to present this year was veteran TV meteorologist Rod Hill, currently with KGW-TV, who explained that he uses some of the same indicators as the other presenters had used, but that he looks at something the others apparently do not. Specifically, the historic Portland records of the winter after the sort of hot and dry summer we've had, and his "analogue years" in that situation point in an entirely different direction than the other forecasters had gone.
Hill says that if Portland follows the same trend as it has in all past situations with a hot and dry summer such as we had this year, the winter will be much drier this year – perhaps up to 20 inches of rain dryer – and cold, but with at best an inch or two of snow for the whole season.
All the forecasters in the room were both colleagues and friends, but Hill's prediction clearly took some of them aback. If he proves right, the others will all be wrong. By the end of this winter, they – and we – will know who got it right.In the meantime, for skiiers and snowboarders, there was very good news – on the subject of snow at the resorts on Mount Hood, every last one of the Meteorologists expected better-than-average snowfall there. On that, they all agreed.