Mar 6, 2024 - Climate

Portland's cold streaks are getting shorter

Longest streak of cold winter days in Portland
Data: Climate Central; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

If this winter's weather has felt more erratic than usual, it's not just in your head.

By the numbers: Cold weather streaks in Portland have been getting five days shorter on average since 1970, according to an analysis from Climate Central, a climate research and communications nonprofit.

Why it matters: Lengthy periods of chilly weather are key for some farmers and winter sports lovers, building essential snowpacks and more.

Yes, but: On average, cold streaks are largely getting shorter, according to Climate Central.

  • Prolonged cold snaps still happen — for example, Portland's longest streak in 2023 lasted 14 days.

Flashback: In the last 50 years, the Rose City experienced its biggest cold snap overall in 1979, which lasted 43 days.

  • That was the year of a January freezing rain storm known as the "silver thaw."
  • "Transportation, electric power, communications and all normal work routine broke down in most of Portland," especially on the east side, an article published in 2010 said.

What they did: Climate Central defines a "winter cold streak" as "at least two consecutive December-February days with average temperatures below the 1991-2020 winter normal average temperature" at a given location.

What they found: "Winter's longest cold streaks have gotten shorter since 1970 in 98% of 240 U.S. locations analyzed," per the report.

  • "Nearly half of the locations analyzed ... have seen their longest winter cold streaks shrink by at least one week since 1970."
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