Dry December is heading for the record books

Dry December is heading for the record books »Play Video
Another clear, cold and almost cloudless sunset descends over Rose City Park in Northeast Portland on a recent December day. Photo by Bill Roberson.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Following a deluge this past spring and a less-than-summery summer that most local residents are still trying to forget, it appears the pendulum of precipitation in Portland is out of whack as December closes in on a record for dryness.

KATU Meteorologist Rhonda Shelby says December 2011 is on track to be the driest December on record for Portland since weather data was kept beginning 140 years ago in 1871.

Twenty days into the month, a scant .10 inch of rain has fallen at the Portland International Airport, where official measurements are made.

Shelby says while there is some light rain in the forecast, it likely won’t be enough to surpass the current record of .88 inches, set in 1876. Yes, 1876.

Normal rainfall for the Portland area this time of year is closer to a total of over two inches for the month. The current total of a tenth of an inch is even less rain that Portland received during the dry summer months of June, July, August and September, Shelby added.

Shelby said the main cause for this year’s dry December is a high-pressure system sitting over the region that weather systems either go around or run into and fizzle out.

She also said that this December, while dry, has also been on the cold side, with an average temperature of 37 degrees, making it the fifth-coldest overall on record so far.

And there are still 11 days to go.

This December stands in stark contrast to the winter wallop the region received right before the holidays in 2008, when records were set for snowfall (19 inches total) and the area enjoyed a rare White Christmas. Light rain for Christmas is expected this year following a dry Christmas Eve, Shelby said.

Shelby added that while December has been really dry, that doesn't necessarily mean we won't make up for it when the new year, and some new weather, arrives.

Here's the latest forecast update and Rhonda talking about the record-setting dry spell: