CORVALLIS - Oregonians hoping for a white Christmas this year are most likely to be disappointed come Dec. 25 - at least, in most of the state, says George Taylor, state climatologist at Oregon State University.
Historical data shows that in Oregon's major population corridor, stretching from Portland in the north to Eugene in the south, the chances of a fresh Christmas Day snowfall are only 2 to 4 percent, Taylor said. To boost the odds you have to travel to Crater Lake, where the 6,000 foot elevation lifts chances to 60 percent, Taylor said.
Tracing back the state's climate data, Taylor finds that the last holiday snowfall in Portland was one-third inch recorded on Christmas Eve, 1990.
At the southern end of the spectrum, you have to look back 14 years to 1983 to find the last trace of holiday snow to fall on Eugene, said Taylor, who is on the faculty of OSU's College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences.
"In the last 60 years, it has only snowed once on Christmas in Eugene and twice on Christmas Eve," Taylor said.
Taylor's home of Corvallis fares no better. In the 108 years of weather records available for the city, there have been three Christmas Day and three Christmas Eve snowfalls, Taylor said.
He said this year's El Nino weather pattern isn't helping raise the odds of holiday snow.
"Last year, we had that incredible weather with just amazing snow conditions and this year the entire state has below normal snowpack," Taylor said.
The federal Natural Resources Conservation Service is reporting that Oregon is the lowest of all Western states for snowpack. Taylor says the state is averaging a high of 81 percent of normal snowpack in the northeast corner of the state to a low of 39 percent of normal in the Willamette area of the Cascades.
"This will be a good year for golfers and a bad year for skiers and those who depend on snow melt," he
Taylor predicts a drier and warmer winter with a return to a wetter and colder winter weather pattern in fall 1998.