fb pixel

Log In


Reset Password

December 2017 looks to be among the driest

As the curtain closes on 2017, Medford has experienced one of the driest Decembers on record.

Through Sunday, had fallen on the city, according to the National Weather Service. That makes it the fourth-driest December on record, according to meteorologist Brett Lutz. The rankings are based on 106 years worth of data.

The years 2013 and 1976 are tied for Medford's driest December, when the city only saw 0.36 inches of precipitation. The runner-up award goes to December 1914, which saw 0.56 inches.

By contrast, December 2015 and 2016 were among the top 25 wettest. December 2015 ranks at number six with 7.73 inches, while December 2016 notched 4.56 inches, putting it at number 25.

Much of southwest Oregon is experiencing similar lackluster water levels.

A graphic posted on the weather service's Facebook page showed the current snow depths and snow-water equivalent, and how the numbers compared to "normal" levels for multiple high elevation sites across Southern Oregon and Northern California. The data show a majority of the sites fell into the "extreme below" category, which includes percentages that are 50 percent or less of the normal measurement, with several sites along the Oregon-California border at "zero percent."

A ridge of high pressure that has stayed put along the West Coast since about Thanksgiving is partly responsible for the drier-than-usual conditions, officials said. It is possible that a stronger jet stream in the western Pacific has played a role in keeping that high pressure ridge in place.

The weekend forecast, which includes a wet weather system expected to make its way into the Rogue Valley Saturday, suggests the low water levels will see a slip in the rankings. An area that runs from about Lake of the Woods north, along with parts of the Coastal Range, are expected to see a fair amount of moisture, with up to 0.5 inches expected for the former and up to 1.5 inches forecast for the latter.

About 0.2 inches of precipitation is forecast to fall on Medford.

"It looks pretty certain that it will add to our total," Lutz said. "Whether or not it changes our ranking remains to be seen."

Most of it is expected to fall in the form of rain, with steep snow levels that could climb as high as 7,500 feet in elevation.

On a more long-term scale — January through March 2018, specifically — how the region will fare is anyone's guess, according to data from the Climate Prediction Center released Dec. 21. There are "equal chances" for temperatures and precipitation amounts to be above, at, or below normal in Southern Oregon and Northern California for that time frame.

"That basically means that the data does not support leaning one way or another," Lutz said. "It's kind of like a three-sided coin."

— Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.

A National Weather Service graphic on Facebook shows the current snow depths and snow-water equivalent, and how the numbers compared to 'normal' levels for multiple high elevation sites across Southern Oregon and Northern California. [Photo courtesy NWS]