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Driest Year on Record for California, Oregon, Wettest in Asheville, Macon

By: Christopher C. Burt, 10:05 PM GMT on January 03, 2014

Driest Year on Record for California, Oregon, Wettest in Asheville, Macon

As expected for the past month or so, most of California and much of Oregon have closed out 2013 as the driest calendar year on record. Conversely, a few locations in the Southeast have experienced their wettest year. Here is a brief summary with the details (probably more than you want to know).

California

The statistics speak for themselves. Not only has it been the driest calendar year on record for the state as a whole, but also some locations have surpassed their previous dry records by astonishing margins. Here are some of the record reports issued by various NWS sites from around the state:



Above list issued by NWS-Monterey which serves the San Francisco Bay Area.



Above list issued by NWS-San Joaquin which serves the southern half of the interior valley of California. One of the nation’s premier vegetable and fruit growing regions.



Above list issued by NWS-Los Angeles which serves the greater Los Angles region.

In addition to the above Sacramento (with 6.12”), Eureka (with 16.53”) and Redding (with 12.82”) also experienced their driest calendar years on record but I don’t have the former driest year statistics yet.

The latest Sierra snow measurements taken on January 3rd indicate that the Sierra snowpack water content is currently just 12% of normal for this time of the year, the 3rd lowest level since such measurements began in 1920. The only drier years at this point of the ‘wet’ season were 1977 and 1960.

Oregon

Much of the Willamette Valley and southern Oregon experienced their driest year on record as well:



Statement issued by NWS-Portland.

Medford and Roseburg, in the southern portion of Oregon, also experienced their driest year with 8.99” in Medford (old record 10.42” in 1959) and 16.08” in Roseburg (old record 21.71” in 1976).



This map illustrates the area of precipitation deficits in the western U.S. for 2013.



The latest drought monitor map for the U.S. issued on December 31st.

Record Wet Year in portions of the Southeast and Upper Midwest

Asheville, North Carolina clobbered its previous wet year record with 75.22” of precipitation in 2013, the former record being 64.91” in 1973. Precipitation records in Asheville go back to 1869, so this was quite an achievement. Macon, Georgia also had its wettest year on record with a 72.67” total (former record 67.80” in 1929 with a POR back to 1899).

Portions of the Upper Midwest were also very wet. Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan had a record 48.78” in 2013, surpassing its previous record of 45.84” in 1995 (POR since 1887).

I’ll follow up on other precipitation records for the U.S. in my monthly global extreme weather summary due to post in mid-January.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Precipitation Records

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

El Nino would be a most welcome phenomenon at this point.
Its one thing to get single digit annual rainfall in an area with annual precip usually 10 - 15 inches. Quite another to see those northern CA totals in single digits when 20 - 40+ is the norm. The absolute difference between those is an astonishing water deficit. Sierra snowpack at 12%. Water rationing in the picture I would think if something doesn't change soon.
There is always a critical drought somewhere in the country at any given time and California is no stranger to it. In fact below normal precip in a season is actually quite "normal" for us. But this lack of a snowpack in the Sierra is huge. That's water supply for roughly 1/10 of the nation's residents.
And most of its almonds, no less!
There's gonna be a story here sooner or later.
These are interesting, but rainfall at some stations is intrinsically more variable than at others; if precipitation is 25% of normal in Death Valley, that is of a very different significance than 25% of normal in Honolulu, for example. Statisticians solve this problem with the concept of standard deviation, which compensates for these effects. It would be much more informative to tabulate and chart these rainfall anomalies in terms of standard deviations above or below normal rather than as percentage of normal, as this would give a truer measure of how unusual the readings really are. Has anyone ever attempted this?
Quoting 4. Snowfire:
These are interesting, but rainfall at some stations is intrinsically more variable than at others; if precipitation is 25% of normal in Death Valley, that is of a very different significance than 25% of normal in Honolulu, for example. Statisticians solve this problem with the concept of standard deviation, which compensates for these effects. It would be much more informative to tabulate and chart these rainfall anomalies in terms of standard deviations above or below normal rather than as percentage of normal, as this would give a truer measure of how unusual the readings really are. Has anyone ever attempted this?


Excellent point Snowfire. Looking at some of the normally wetter sites, like Kentfield or Occidental (in the SF Bay Area forecast area), the standard deviation must be huge, but not so great for the normally drier sites.
Dear Weatherhistorian,
The drought readings that you have listed for the California cities remind me of the serious drought from 1974 through 1977. Is 2012-2014 going to be the worst drought California has ever had? It sure looks like it will be according to those low rainfall totals. Is the 1974-77 drought will be changed from the worst drought to the 2nd worst drought?
Its one thing to get single digit annual rainfall in an area with annual precip usually 10 - 15 inches. Quite another to see those northern CA totals in single digits when 20 - 40+ is the norm. The absolute difference between those is an astonishing water deficit. friv 2
weatherhistorian has created a new entry.
2013 was Eugene's driest year on record (1891-2013). That's news in itself, but what makes 2013 especially remarkable is the extreme difference between September and every other month. 2013 was the driest year in Eugene in spite of a record-setting rainfall in September. That month more than five-and-a-half times rain fell than normal! Every other month of the year was considerably below normal.

This is the first time since records were kept in Eugene that September was the wettest month of the year. One third of the entire year's rain fell in September, making it wetter than January, February, November, and December combined! September 29 was the only day of the year with more than an inch of rain. (The next wettest day was June 25, typically a dry month, relative to winter, when nearly half the month's normal rain fell in one day.