December 21, 2015

The Wettest December in Northwest History?

We are two-thirds through December and MONTHLY ALL-TIME precipitation records are already being broken.

This morning, Portland Oregon broke its all-time monthly precipitation record for December.   The wettest December on record At 6:53 AM their total December rainfall was 13.52 inches, exceeding the previously monthly record of 13.35 inches.  Since then Portland has had another 2/3 inch.  And there is a third of the month left!  The record there is going to be smashed.  Not even close.

Astoria has received 18.68 inches so far, in second place to the 20.38 inches in 1996.   They will easily gain first place in a few days.

Salem, Oregon has been pummeled by 13.68 inches, behind third place 14.03 inches, observed in 1917.  Beating that is in the bag. Second place is 15.01 inches in 1996.  Well within reach.  First place is 17.54 inches in 1933.  A stretch, but possible.

Seattle is closing in on major records as well. The SeaTac record over a period of 70 years (1945-2014) is 11.85 inches observed in December 1979.    Even without a drop of additional precipitation, we have achieved the third wettest December:

1) 11.85      1979
2) 10.18      1996
3) 10.03      2015 (as of 6 PM today, Monday)

There is a very high probability that we will surpass second place (1996) within the next day and have a good shot of besting the 1979 total of 11.85 inches by end of the month.  

The last few weeks have been amazingly wet.  Here is the percent of normal precipitation for the last 14 days.  Oregon and southern Washington has received 200 to 400% of normal rainfall for that period, with some places in eastern Oregon hit by over 400% of normal.

For western Oregon and the southern portion of western Washington, this is going to be the wettest December on record.

To live through the wettest December in Portland or Seattle is really saying something.  Something you can talk about when you are 90.  Or not.

And with cool temperatures, snow is piling up.  Here is the latest SNOTEL percentage of normal snowpack (snow water equivalent) for Washington.  Much of the state is over 100%, with 161% of normal over the Olympics.

But what about Oregon?  Crazy snowy, with the southern and eastern portion of the state with over 150% normal snowpack.

As an aside the official drought monitor shows extreme drought over eastern Oregon (see below).  Very strange.

Released December 17th

 Our reservoirs are full or nearly full.  Our snowpack is great.  Life is good.  Especially for local ducks.


  1. Hi Cliff,

    It's exciting to hear that we'll break our December record in a few days here in Astoria. I've been trying to figure out what the all-time wettest month on record is here- you mentioned its around 20 inches, but I found a wikepedia page stating that the wettest month ever was December of 1933, when just over 36 inches of rain fell. Perhaps that is for a 30 day period including December, but not the full calendar month? It's probably more likely a wikipedia error.

    Either way, it's been wet- over 14 inches in November and now at 18 and counting for December!

    Rod Hill on KGW (Portland news station) also mentioned that although PDX (the aiport) broke the all-time monthly record, downtown Portland once recorded over 20 inches back in the late 1800s.

    Can't wait to get up to the Cascades to enjoy the snow! Thanks for the awesome blog!

  2. The only out that I can come up with is that the drought index refers to long-term average weather - that is, climate. You, Cliff, are talking about the weather. Merry Christmas!

  3. No Johannes,

    Cliff has already explained that numerous times.

  4. What a boon for the OLYMPEX folks. When I heard about the experiment I worried that this winter would turn into an El Niño drizzle fest for them. Not so! What great luck that the wettest fall in some time has come knocking. Hope it continues and with flood impacts staying relatively minimal too.

  5. Hopefully the snowpack will turn into higher water levels for the rouge valley basin. These reservoirs are still all pretty low:

    Its amazing whats happened further north in central oregon, Detroit lake gained 25 FEET of water in just the past 5 days!

  6. This is why the Climate Alarmists are no longer resonating with the general public. Look at the comment from Dan McEvoy in the previous post. He says in essence, even though we are not in a drought, in the long term we are going to be in a drought.

    Aside from being a simply ridiculous statement given the temporal nature of drought, it is a good example of the constant Alarmist Bogeyman on the horizon. We see it with the IPCC predictions for Global Warming 50 years out. Anywhere from 1.5 to 4 degrees of warming with the evidence and probability showing the extreme is less likely. And yet that is then used as a basis for near certainty of doom. A 50 year prediction of certain doom sounds a lot like talk of a drought during a flood.

    Folks are just tired of the chicken little parade. Everything in life is cyclical. There will be good times and bad. Humans have always adapted. There is little evidence of why we won't once again if and when there is another crisis.

    Alarmists should be laughed out of the room just as we did the Heaven's Gate cult who were convinced there was a UFO behind the comet.

    Thanks for the facts Dr. Mass.

    1. Couldn't have said it better JeffB! There are so many careers riding on the global warming/climate change dogma that they will fiercely defend their position... even as the waters rise in the "drought inflicted" region. Can't wait to go play in the snow!

  7. 15.33 inches of rain was officially recorded at the old federal building in downtown Seattle in December 1933.If Sea-Tac was in operation at that time,probably a higher total would have been recorded,since the downtown location is a climatologically drier area.Also,Dec 1880 recorded 15.01"-I believe the station was on Bainbridge Island then-but again in a more rain shadowed area that Sea-Tac.We are nowhere near a record when the entire period of observations are considered.

  8. You bet, Cliff. Love it. More importantly, it is nice to see Northern California getting somewhat hammered with rain and snow, as well. California is a great state and it is nice to see that they are getting the much needed precipitation for their vegetable and fruit crops. The food crops that California is famous for can certainly use this moisture.

    Some folks may knock California but the state has it all in the food department. I think California is the greatest state in the United States. I am very happy for them...and it is nice to live in close proximity to a state so blessed with a wonderful variety of food crops.


  9. This year's El Nino is often compared to 1997-98. Just comparing rainfall for Nov/Dec 1997 with this year, we appear to be roughly twice as wet. Will be interesting to see how the rest of the winter/spring compares...

  10. My wife and I, as skiers, like to watch international skiing events. We've been watching the women and men compete at Val d'Isere in France, and the men in northern Italy. While we have impressive amounts of precipitation the Europeans are making snow for these events. Other than the snow they make there is next to nothing on the terrain, even on the high peaks. Apparently the weather god is pleased with the NW.

    Similarly our East Coast is "cooking" relative to normal years. We can, and should, appreciate our full reservoirs and deep snowpacks. Who knows what next year will bring. Having lived here my entire life, other tnan living with a couple of monsoon seasons in Vietnam in 1969 and '70, but traveled widely, I've come to appreciate rain.Better rivers than desert; better green than brown; better summer snowpack than rock that hasn't seen snow and ice for decades.

  11. Ok, we need to push a lot of this rain to California as they are in DESPERATE NEED of it!

  12. Cliff, a good discussion of the drought situation in Oregon - including a Seasonal Drought Outlook map that is very informative - is at this link. The article and data provided show that the drought outlook (for the next three months) for Western Oregon does not include drought,

  13. We had snow, yesterday! I'm about 10 miles, SE of Chehalis, up about 600 feet. About 2PM, I thought the rain was looking a little "thick". And, then, it snowed quit hard for an hour. Didn't stick. It was odd. There wasn't a mention in any of the forecasts I usually check. But, I AM in the Napavine triangle :-). Lew

  14. I am worried about the 90 day forecast out of NOAA and the National Fire Center, looking at well above normal temps Jan-March. If all this snow goes off in a rain-on-snow event, like January 2009, we will be facing floods again in Eastern WA.

  15. Just a graphic comparing the past 15 years of precipitation patterns. We've had some droughty and hot periods. No doubt. But, at least at Sea-Tac, we've had some prolonged, extraordinary wet stretches as well, including three of the past four years. Compare that to 2001-2004, where three of four years were relatively dry.

  16. @ JeffB

    An overwhelming number of climate scientists say the we must act quickly and decisively to transition to clean energy and reduce or carbon emissions. You don't seem to be aware of this consensus. Not only the IPCC but the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the U.S. Department of Defense, among many other prestigious institutions, agree that we must rapidly transition to clean energy.
    Find out more here:

  17. @ JeffB

    Current data about the rate of global warming is certainly alarming and if you choose to see the people who present that data as "alarmists" you are free to do so. But if the people observing these changes were not warning people about what future changes might be they would not be responsible scientists or citizens. Meteorologists tell us what they predict the weather will be next week and climatologists should be telling us what their data can tell us about future climates.

    The link below has a good summary of warming in 2015 with this year's global temperature anomaly likely to be 1.05ºC (1.89ºF) above the pre-industrial average.

    1. John,

      The local climate scientist in our own backyard at Western Washington University, Don Easterbrook, begs to differ with you. cooling

      My point is that "global warming" appears to be as much a religion as it is science... but there are millions of dollars to be made pushing the global warming hysteria and implementing additional taxes on everyone.

      In my opinion, and others, Global Warming Science is Unfalsifiable Woo-Woo Pseudoscience...

  18. Great, Cliff.

    I notice that the "SNOTEL - River Basin Snow Water Content" is looking darn good so far htis year. And importantly looking damn good for Northern California.

    I hope you comment on this in the near future. The Shasta lake reservoir is big -time important as is the snow pack in the Donner pass area and south to Yosemite.

    I love it when ignorant folks trash California...the state that has it all. Lot of jealous folks in the United States...

  19. Cliff, I really enjoying reading your blogs, but I need to give you additional information from southern Oregon. Many of our reservoirs are far from being at normal levels for this time of year. In the Klamath Basin, Gerber reservoir east of Klamath Falls, is 1% full and Clear Lake is only 6% full. Upper Klamath Lake is at the 25th percentile for this date. In the Rogue Basin the two big reservoirs, Applegate and Lost Creek are near normal on their fill curves, but the higher elevation reservoirs which rely on snowpack are well below normal. These high elevation reservoirs are used extensively by the Rogue basin agricultural growers. As you point out in your blog, the snowpack is well above normal, but a late December snowpack above normal is nowhere near as good as a late March snowpack above normal. I agree that the Oregon coast should be dropped down a category to take it out of drought (most areas there don't rely on reservoirs). I think it's still prudent to keep the inland areas of southern Oregon in severe and extreme drought until the snowpack is maintained later in the season and reservoir recharge occurs. Also, I'm the WCM in the NWS office in Medford and I give input to the Drought Monitor. Again, I love your blogs but the drought conditions are different here in Southern Oregon.

  20. Rain rain rain, yeah, ok, but what's up with the 25 mph sustained wind here in Bellevue and 38 mph gusts tonight (Tuesday)? How did I miss hearing about this? I just heard more rain until Friday.

  21. Dennis Lapchis,

    Don Easterbrook, who you cite and who CNS news quotes as saying "We haven’t had any global warming in 17 years", ignores the fact that 13 of the 15 hottest years on record have all occurred since 2000 - with 2015 slated to be the warmest on record.

    CNS may think he "correctly predicted back in 2000 that the Earth was entering a cooling phase" but the data don't support that .

  22. @ Dennis Lapchis & are not U.S. bureaucracies. Take a look.

    You reference Judith Curry & James Corbett; both are ideological denialists by the criteria of this artice by Lee McIntyre, "The Price of Denialism", NYTimes Nov 7, 2015.

    "To hold that the facts are not yet settled. That there is so much more that we do not know. That the science isn’t certain. The problem here, however, is that this is based not only on a grave misunderstanding of science ... Doubting the overwhelming consensus of scientists on an empirical question, for which one has only the spottiest ideologically-motivated “evidence,” is not skepticism, it is the height of gullibility. It is to claim that it is much more likely that there is a vast conspiracy among thousands of climate scientists than that they have instead all merely arrived at the same conclusion because that is where they were led by the evidence.

    Couldn’t the scientists nonetheless be wrong? Yes, of course. ... But this does not mean that one is a good skeptic merely for disbelieving the well-corroborated conclusions of science. To reject a cascade of scientific evidence that shows that the global temperature is warming and that humans are almost certainly the cause of it, is not good reasoning, even if some long-shot hypothesis comes along in 50 years to show us why we were wrong. ... True skepticism must be more than an ideological reflex; skepticism must be earned by a prudent and consistent disposition to be convinced only by evidence. When we cynically pretend to withhold belief long past the point at which ample evidence should have convinced us that something is true, we have stumbled past skepticism and landed in the realm of willful ignorance. This is not the realm of science, but of ideological crackpots.

    The Problem of climate change is like the problems Medicine deals with. There is always uncertainty but certainty is NEVER a requirement for action. If it were we would still be debating whether or not to offer treatment while our patients died in front of us. The proper question is not whether climate change is certain. It is, "If it were true and we did not act, what would happen? If it were not true and we did act, what would happen?" One then uses judgment as to how bad outcome One would be, how bad outcome Two would be and what is the relatively likehood of the proposition being true vs false. We almost never have scientific certainty in Medicine but we are able to act in the best interests of our patients in spite of this. Failing to take this approach with the Earth as our patient is truly a form of denial."

  23. The weirdly dismissive attitude of climate change denialists deserves study by social psychologists. Clearly, some kind of groupthink is at work here, as in individual thought is not ocurring, but instead a conformity of propaganda. Fear of change? Resentment of knowledge-based careers? Fear that BS will be impotent? Take your pick, or choose the "cluster effect".

  24. Wallace, Jim, John,

    The label "climate change denialist" makes me laugh... no one is denying that climate change exists... we all agree on that. The debate is with regard to how much the climate is changing due to human activity... and on that note, we disagree.

    Finally, to Wallace... with a few word changes, your point goes both ways... The weirdly dismissive attitude of climate change cultists deserves study by social psychologists. Clearly, some kind of group-think is at work here, as in individual thought is not occurring, but instead a conformity to main-stream media propaganda. Fear of change? Resentment of knowledge-based debates? Fear that the alarmist hysteria is BS? Take your pick, or choose the "cluster effect".


  25. @ Dennis Lapchis

    “Willful Ignorance” is the form of climate change denial that we see in Judith Curry.

    The climate scientist Peter Frumhoff wrote:

    “The ocean is absorbing much of the excess heat from human emissions. If the model Curry and colleagues discussed had incorporated the latest ocean heat content data, their relatively low best estimate for climate sensitivity would have been more in line with previously reported, higher estimates.

    It would be a mistake to set policy based solely on low estimates. That’s why we have advisory bodies like the IPCC and National Climate Assessment that examine all the available science, including higher estimates. The risks of far greater climate sensitivity can’t simply be discounted or dismissed.

    The bottom line is that we know enough about where we’re heading to reduce emissions even as scientists grapple with homing in on precisely how much the Earth is expected to warm.

    It’s also worth pointing out that current emissions are on track to be higher than any of the scenarios the IPCC examined. Further, the path we are on does not take into account the amplification of carbon release to the atmosphere from Arctic permafrost that is likely to dramatically accelerate over the next decades.

    It would be great if climate sensitivity were as low as Curry thinks it is. But we can’t base climate policy on wishful thinking. Using arguments about low climate sensitivity to delay action is like refusing to treat a patient because you can’t tell if their fever is 103 or 104 degrees. The risks are clear, even if we’re still figuring out just how big they are.”

  26. @Dennis Lapchis

    While you state that "no one is denying that climate change exists... we all agree on that.." you cite a denialist (Easterbrook) who says his prediction in 2000 of global cooling has proven to be correct even though the climate record for the past 15 years proves him wrong.

    It is one thing to question the accuracy of model output regarding future climate change, but denying recent and current evidence of a warming world is indicative of a contrarian (and not skeptical) mentality.

    You are free to have your own opinion on how the ongoing climate change is just "unfalsifiable Woo-Woo Pseudoscience" but your opinion does nothing to alter the effects of increasing atmospheric CO2 or the demonstrable impact it is having on global temperatures.

  27. John and Jim,

    Hundreds of millions of people around the world don't share your opinion on this subject... that's a lot of "denialists" and "willfully ignorant" people.


    That's my last post on this thread... it's been fun!


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

More Typical Spring Temperatures Will Save Washington and California's Cherry Crop this Year

Last year was a cherry disaster for the West Coast and the key driver was the cool/wet weather late last winter and spring in California.   ...