OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

What drought? Oregon slogs through near-record spring

04/25/2003

CORVALLIS - If that old adage about April showers is on target, Oregonians should expect some mighty nice flowers this May.

Especially in Corvallis.

A quick peek at precipitation records confirms what most of us have been feeling - that this has been one of the wettest early springs on record throughout much of Oregon.

Oregon State University atmospheric scientist George Taylor, who serves as the state climatologist, says most Oregon locations are still a bit shy of record precipitation totals for March and April. But there have been few years in Oregon's recorded history that have experienced more wet days in early spring.

That's a good news, bad news situation, Taylor points out. The rain may be dreary for people from warmer, drier climes, but it is good news in terms of easing worries of drought from a dry fall and winter.

"It is true that the snowpack is still down and that is the most important factor in dealing with possible drought conditions in the summer," Taylor said. "But one of the best alternatives is lots of spring rain - and that we have had."

In Portland, for example, the record for combined March and April rain came in 1997, when 10.87 inches fell on the Rose City. With a few days yet to go, the city had logged 9.43 inches by Thursday afternoon. But Portland already has set a record for days with measurable precipitation this year with 45 days in those two months, breaking the old record of 41 days, set in 1955 and tied in 1997.

"Oregon has a reputation for 'drizzle' and this year is certainly bearing that out," Taylor said. "The good news is that April is typically only 60 percent as wet as March, and May and June get progressively drier - both in terms of total precipitation and the number of days with rain.

"We're due for some warmer, drier times."

That will be welcome news in Corvallis, which has set records for March/April rainfall, 13.58 inches, and number of rainy days, 51. The old record for rain was 12.72 inches set back in 1916, while the previous number of rainy days was set in 1993 with 46.

Measurable wet days are defined as receiving .01 inches or more of precipitation.

Astoria has tied its record for wet days in March/April with 47 (existing record set in 1955), and Salem is two days off its record of 48 set in 1937.

Pendleton's seasonal total (since October) is more than an inch above normal - good news for a place that has suffered from three dry years in a row - though it is well short of any records.

Medford also has a ways to go before a potential precipitation record. The city's 32 wet days and 5.29 inches of precipitation are short of its record of 37 days (1995) and 6.36 inches (1989). Like Pendleton, however, Medford is above normal for the season - by more than five inches - following two dry years.

So, though Corvallis has set records, most of the rest of Oregon has merely been very wet and very gray; just not quite record-breaking. Then again, the end of April is still nearly a week away - plenty of time yet to sprinkle more incentive for those May flowers.

For more on Oregon's comparative precipitation, visit the Oregon Climate Service web site at: http://www.ocs.oregonstate.edu/.