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So...just how dry HAS it been here, so far?


The consensus last fall at the Oregon Chapter of the American Meteorological Society’s “What Will Winter Be Like” weather forum in the OMSI auditorium, from the participating meteorologists, was that there was actually no comparable year in the Portland-area weather records from which to compare, so their best guess was that this past winter would be pretty much average.

And it pretty much was, with a bias to the warm side – we had plenty of rain through the end of December, although no snow this year.

But since New Year’s, it’s been quite dry. In fact, there has been some talk of record dryness. But, although much of our rain frequently centers on the first four months of each year, a dry first third of the year is not all that unusual here.

by: ERIC NORBERG - On March 8 of this year, THE BEE spotted a column of rainfall descending through crosswinds onto Inner Southeast Portland at dawn, from a very small cloud. Symbolic of our dry start to 2013, perhaps, the drops evaporated before they hit the ground, and no rain was recorded here on that day.Through the end of April, we’d had only 9.63 inches of rain – a total we sometimes exceed in January alone! But, believe it or not, we’ve already had a dryer first third of the year just since the start of the Twenty-First Century: The first four months of 2001 gave us only 9.50” inches of rain. (The figures we use all come from THE BEE’s Inner Southeast Portland rain gauge, in the north end of Westmoreland.)

And, in 2001, we went on to record only 29.67” of rain for the entire year, making it the driest year of the century so far. But, in 2002, we recorded 14.37” in the first third of the year – a one-third increase – and we still had the second driest annual total so far this century, 30.04”.

On the other hand, the third driest first third of the year was in 2005, with only 11.39” recorded through April, and we went on to experience a much drippier 40.99” year. The wettest year of the young century so far was last year’s 59.29” (and we had the wettest first third, too, last year, of 26.58”).

If there’s a point here, it’s that the first third of the year sometimes is suggestive of the rainfall total for the full year, and sometimes it is not. You really can’t tell from the way the year starts.

May continued the bone dry trend through the 12th – after which the rain returned, and there were only two completely dry days after that for the rest of the month.

Although much of the rain recorded in May was very light, a drenching storm peaking on May 23 with the wettest day of the year so far – with 1.36 inches recorded at our Westmoreland gauge – accounted for 2.52 inches over four days, and vaulted May well over three inches at that point.

So, May turned out to be the wettest month of 2013 so far. In Portland, dry stretches and wet periods eventually seem always to even out.