Warm winter possibly ahead for Central Oregon

November 7, 2014
Warm winter possibly ahead for Central Oregon

Season could also be drier than normal, according to some predictions

By Dylan J. Darling / The Bulletin / @DylanJDarling

Published Nov 7, 2014 at 12:01AM

Early indications for the winter ahead show the season could be warm in Central Oregon, much like last winter.

“It looks like we’ll have warmer (temperatures) than normal,” said Kathie Dello, deputy director of the Oregon Climate Service at Oregon State University in Corvallis.

In October Dello said the coming winter could also be drier than normal, but this week she said she’s not sure how precipitation might turn out. Even if precipitation is normal or above normal, the amount of snowfall at lower elevations around Central Oregon could be less because of warmer temperatures.

“(The climate outlook) changed a little bit,” she said, “but it is still not promising.”

Late last fall and early last winter were warm and dry for the most part. For example, January saw an average temperature of 35.4, up from the average of 32.7, said Mike Murphy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pendleton. The month had 0.77 inch of precipitation, down from the average of 1.53 inches for the month. Weather service models indicate there could be a similar weather pattern this winter..

But as with last winter, there could be some cold snaps and rounds of heavy snowfall.

“It’s not going to be a completely mild winter for sure,” he said.

Talk of what this winter might be like in Central Oregon turned to the Pacific Ocean. Forecasters and climatologists are predicting a weak El Niño, when sea surface temperatures are unusually warm in the Pacific near the equator. The phenomenon can have global weather implications, with the Pacific Northwest becoming warmer and drier than normal.

About 80 percent of Oregon, including Central Oregon, remains in drought, said David Simeral, associate research meteorologist for the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno, Nevada. Even if the winter turns out to be drier than normal, he said, there will still be some storms that dump rain and snow on the Cascades, helping to alleviate the drought.

“I would expect some minor improvement throughout the winter,” he said.

Given the winter outlook, the drought will likely persist in portions of Oregon, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center. The center calls for above-average temperatures this winter around the West and dry conditions in Central Oregon.

Among the people keeping a close eye on the outlook for winter is Jeremy Giffin, Deschutes Basin watermaster for the Oregon Water Resources Department. His agency handles irrigation water deliveries in Central Oregon during growing season. If there’s a dry winter it would be the third straight year of drought, meaning Giffin might adjust how much water gets stored in reservoirs such as Wickiup Reservoir, which feeds the Deschutes River.

“I’m just kind of waiting to see how this winter unfolds,” he said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7812, ddarling@bendbulletin.com

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