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Old 07-10-2007, 12:27 PM
 
Location: Myrtle Creek, Oregon
3,450 posts, read 3,999,518 times
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Default The Oregon Rain

There have been a lot of questions about Oregon rain and clouds, and a lot of generalizations that are not really applicable to every area. I have lived in most parts of the state at one time or another, so here is some information.

First, the extremes. At one time the town of Valsetz in the Coast Range (west of Dallas) held the record for the highest annual rainfall in the contiguous 48 states. One winter, they recorded over 200 inches of rain! On the other extreme is SE Oregon around Burns. Much of the area gets less than 15 inches of rain a year, and some parts by the Nevada border get less than 5 inches of rain a year. That's not a planetary record, but it's real dry.

Valsetz doesn't exist any more. It was a mill town, so when the mill closed the town closed too. The timber company levelled the town and planted trees on the site. There's nothing to see any more.

Oregon is mountainous, and the mountains mostly run north and south. The coast, and the west slope of the Coast Range, gets the most rain, with the north coast being the rainiest. There is a small rain shadow on the east side of the Coast range, then rain starts to build up again as the clouds pile up against the higher and more rugged Cascade Mountains. Snow level hovers around 5000 feet in the winter, though at times it gets down to sea level or lifts as far as 7000 feet. You can expect that any altitude above 1000 feet will see several episodes of snow in the winter.

As soon as you hit the crest of the Cascades, things dry out in a hurry. The douglas fir forests of the west slope switch to dry climate pines, which quickly taper to sage brush and juniper as you go east. The northeast corner of the state, in the Wallowa Mountains, gets enough rain that it stays pretty green, and is one of the most astonishingly beautiful parts of the state.

The south coast of Oregon gets less rain, and the area around Brookings is considered to be a real banana belt. Inland, Southern Oregon is dryer than Northern Oregon, with a very Mediterranean climate. There is snow in the mountains, and there are plenty of mountains. Crater Lake a few years ago recorded a snow pack that was an astonishing 54 feet thick at the crater rim!

So much for rain. Now let's talk about sun. The 45th parallel runs just north of Salem. In the winter, the sun rises at 7:30 AM and sets at 4:30 PM, if you are lucky and have a flat horizon. Flat horizons are the exception rather than the rule in Oregon. Where you live, the sun may rise at 10 AM and set at 3:30 PM. It's not unusual.

The first winter storms start hammering the North Coast around the first of November. The typical pattern is heavy rain for a day or two, followed by "moist, unstable air". The temperature drops 10 or 20 degrees, and there are intermittent showers of rain or sleet. If you are outside, there are lots of sun breaks, sometimes lasting for hours, but if you are stuck in an office you will miss it. This will last for 3-7 days, when another storm will come in and repeat the pattern. December is the stormiest month.

There is almost always a wonderful two week period of sun and mild weather in February. March can be glorious, with showers and sun, with early blossoms and migrating birds. The thing that gets people down is that spring lasts a LOOOONG time. The weather often, though not always, stays wet and cool clear into the end of June. Spring is when you hear the plaintive whines of, "Does it *ever* stop raining?"

About the 4th of July, the summer drought starts, and it doesn't rain again until September.
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Old 07-10-2007, 05:22 PM
 
Location: Oregon Coast
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That's a pretty good description of the weather here in Oregon. I have lived a few places here as well. I'll just add a little bit of simple information.

Go past the Cascade range going east for weather that's not as wet. However you will get both more cold and heat. It'll snow some over there most likely. I lived over in the Gorge area for about 10 years and temperature changes from summer to winter are dramatic. You'll freeze in winter and get hot in summer. You will get more sun the farther east you go.

Southern Oregon cities from Roseburg on down to Ashland are not wet places to live. They get more sun too.

The coast gets quite a bit of rain but not much snow. The good part of living here is that the temperatures are very seldom extreme.
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Old 07-10-2007, 05:53 PM
 
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Thank you for this info.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Caldwell View Post
About the 4th of July, the summer drought starts, and it doesn't rain again until September.
Does the greenery turn into 'brownery' during this time?
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Old 07-10-2007, 06:31 PM
 
Location: South Coastal OR
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Brookings' "Banana Belt" climate is really not that unusual overall, just for Oregon; there are parts of Washington State near Seattle that likewise have a similar microclimates, as well as throughout the world.

Brookings warmer, sunnier, drier climate is in part caused by its geographical situation. Unlike other coastal Oregon towns which are laid out north to south, Brookings is situated southeast to northwest. Mount Emily and Cape Blanco not only shelter Brookings from the constant westerly winds, but they also help create a thermal trough. Whenever a high pressure system forms over the Pacific Northwest or the Great Basin area, an offshore, east-to-west wind is created (common throughout the world and known as "katabatic winds"; the Santa Anas of Southern California are katabatic winds, as are the Chinooks of the Rockies; the Mistrals of France, etc.). This interior hot air migrates east to west in a downslope fashion, raising temperatures considerably. The intensity of these winds here in Oregon is not as great as the Santa Anas in the South, however.

Whenever this atmostpheric condition exists, it is not unusual to have temperatures rise into the 80s to low 90s along the coast itself; go inland a half mile or more and thermometers often hit the century mark. But these high temperatures seldom last longer than a few days at a stretch.

However, this same high pressure system often acts as a vacuum, pulling in a fog bank over the coast, blanketing it for many summer days in grey skies and temperatures hovering in the low to mid 60s. Much like today. And yesterday, where here on the coast the high was 61. Inland, and throughout much of the country, areas are baking in a heat wave.

Weather forecasters' noses have grown so long in trying to predict weather for Brookings, their relatives and friends get degreed in plastic surgery. Sick of being red faced, most will now waffle and say, "Brookings, you may reach 80 to 90 degree temperatures today, or else you'll remain in the low 60s. The fog may lift, but it may not. If it does it may roll back by 9 a.m., or maybe not 'til 5 p.m. We JUST DON'T KNOW!"

But generally speaking, the Brookings area does enjoy overall warmer temperatures and far less wind than other coastal towns.

During the rainy season which generally starts around November and extends into April or May, we get an average of 80-inches. Some years much less, some years much more. During the summer months (June through September) it's not unusual to go without any rain, unless you consider fog 'precipitation' which it can at times feel like.

Of course, global warming is changing the entire playing field.
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Old 07-10-2007, 06:36 PM
 
Location: Myrtle Creek, Oregon
3,450 posts, read 3,999,518 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by parasol View Post
Thank you for this info.


Does the greenery turn into 'brownery' during this time?
The trees stay green, but get very dry. Everything else turns brown. Fire season has already started. In August, the whole state, except for a thin strip along the coast, is at critical danger of wildfire.

It is a felony to start a forest fire. Flick that cigarette, and you could spend several years in prison, and be subject to hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and damages.
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Old 07-10-2007, 08:49 PM
 
841 posts, read 4,557,213 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Caldwell View Post

Where you live, the sun may rise at 10 AM and set at 3:30 PM. It's not unusual.
Where exactly is this? That sounds pretty cool.
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Old 07-11-2007, 12:38 AM
 
Location: Tualatin, Oregon
629 posts, read 831,897 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Caldwell View Post
So much for rain. Now let's talk about sun. The 45th parallel runs just north of Salem. In the winter, the sun rises at 7:30 AM and sets at 4:30 PM, if you are lucky and have a flat horizon. Flat horizons are the exception rather than the rule in Oregon. Where you live, the sun may rise at 10 AM and set at 3:30 PM. It's not unusual.
I suppose if you live near the Cascades or the Coast Range, it would be possible to have a sunrise at 10am OR a sunset at 3:30pm, but both? That sounds highly unusual to me --- might as well live in Anchorage if that's the case.
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Old 07-11-2007, 10:00 AM
 
Location: Myrtle Creek, Oregon
3,450 posts, read 3,999,518 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Imperial1904 View Post
Where exactly is this? That sounds pretty cool.
On the north side of any hill.
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Old 07-11-2007, 10:21 PM
 
Location: Tualatin, Oregon
629 posts, read 831,897 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Caldwell View Post
On the north side of any hill.
In order to have the sun rise at 10am and set at 3pm on the shortest day of the year in the northernmost point in the state, you would have to be sitting on the north side of a hill that cuts off a 16 degree angle to both the southwestern and southeastern sky. For perspective, at 20 degrees, you would have no sunlight at all on that same day.

I'm sorry if I'm sounding argumentative. There is no debate that western Oregon skies are usually gloomy for long stretches of time in the winter. I just think it's wrong to paint a picture that implies that our latitude is barely below the Arctic Circle (which, by the way, is VERY cool to watch in the summertime if you've ever been up there).
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Old 07-12-2007, 12:10 AM
 
28 posts, read 72,931 times
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Why has this even become an issue....I think Larry's original email was quite clear that it's rare for this to happen...not to mention that I don't think it was meant to be taken so literally. His point is that it's dark during the winter months. Take it from someone who has always had a "horizon" on both the East and West to view. Whenever I visit my family who lives in an area with trees or hills blocking the sunrise and/or sunset I feel as though I have missed a significant portion of "daylight hours". Although everyone's replies were filled with important and quite interesting information I think we should all be a bit more tolerant and less judgemental.
Thanks for your post Larry.
sunspotsAZ
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