Ask the Meteorologist: Rain Shadows

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Why doesn’t Southern Oregon get a lot of snow?

Torie White

Washington Elementary

The Rogue Valley, and Medford specifically, sits at a low elevation amongst many mountains. The mountains act as a shield, and play a huge role on the type of weather that moves into the Valley. In most cases, this can be referred to as a rain shadow. The air coming in off the ocean, or moving in from our north hit these mountains and force the air to rise. The air rises and forms clouds, which will drop precipitation if conditions allow.

Most of the rain or snow tends to fall out on the “windward” side of a mountain. When thinking of the Coastal Range Mountains, this would be the slopes facing the West. The eastern slopes, or the leeward side, tends to see much drier conditions. Because there are mountains to the North and West of the Rogue Valley, where almost all of our weather moves in from …significant rainfall or snowfall is difficult.

Temperatures stay pretty mild in the Rogue Valley all year long. This is due to many reasons, but because temperatures stay fairly mild, it is also difficult to see snow. The fog helps to keep temperatures warmer in the overnight hours during the winter which is one of these reasons.