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Weather and Climate

2015 Was A Year Of Weather Extremes In The Northwest

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Chris Lehman
/
Northwest News Network
Snow has been piling up by the foot in the Cascades. This photo was taken December 28, 2015 near Santiam Pass, Oregon.

From a hot, dry summer to a wet and snowy December, 2015 was a year of extremes for Northwest weather. And 2016 could be full of surprises, too.

The year got off to a dry start with snowpack well below normal across the Northwest. That led directly into a hot, dry summer with drought plaguing most of the region. Deadly wildfires raged through parched timberland.

And then, a dramatic shift. December was one of the wettest on record in Seattle and Portland. In the Cascades, snow piled up by the foot.

So what's next? Clinton Rockey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Portland, said an El Nino weather pattern could mean that new snow will keep to the mountains and is unlikely to fall in lower elevations.

"Time will tell as we see continue to see more El Ninos we'll get a better feel of what they actually do for us,” Rockey said. “But the one thing that does seem to be a driving force is that they do bring us mild temperatures."

Rockey said in the short term, he expects El Nino to shift the storm track south so it takes aim at southern Oregon and California. And he said odds are, the coming summer is likely to be a bit cooler than in 2015.