2022 was a year of essentially two seasons: winter and summer. After day upon day of cold rain in April and May, we had a brief period of springtime before the summer heat arrived. The transition to fall was even more sudden, with a transition from consistent 70-80 degree sun to consistent 55 degree rain happening on October 21.
It was the coldest year since 2013, averaging 0.6 degrees below the recent average, and the temperature dropped below freezing on 77 days – a new record for my weather station going back to 2009. (The lowest was 30 in 2010, although there have been three years with 76.) Hard freezes in mid-April (down to 25.6 on April 15) were bad news for orchards and vineyards, although it did not freeze after April 17 – right around our average last frost date. There were several near-freezes in May – including 34 degrees on May 20 – which combined with incessant rainfall made it impossible to get warm-season crops established on schedule for most farmers.
The late planting gamble paid off, however, as the summer months were warm and dry and summer weather extended well into our typical fall, with rains not arriving in earnest until late October. The first frost didn’t arrive until November 8, oddly after the first snow on November 6, at which point few tender crops were still producing. In keeping with the sudden change of seasons, the first frost was the first of 13 consecutive freezing nights, with the mercury dropping further and further on crisp clear mornings until reaching 18.2ºF on November 19 – the coldest reading of the year.
The coldest temperature of 2021 was 23.5ºF. In 2022 we saw colder temperatures than that on 14 days across four different months – not even including the ice storm before Christmas that bottomed out at 23.8.
The year finished with a succession of extremes. Although the true arctic air stayed to our north, we had nearly a day of rain at 24-30 degrees as a warm Pacific storm overran a stiff northeasterly breeze, depositing around a third of an inch of ice on roads, trees, and roofs. Though the roads were briefly treacherous, it was not enough to damage trees. The warm air finally won the battle on Christmas eve, when it rose from 32 to 53 in a few hours, leading to one of the warmest Christmases on record at 58.5. After 59.1 on Boxing Day, the strongest windstorm in at least the last five years swept through in the wee hours of 27th, causing a fair number of power outages in the area and bringing temperatures back to seasonal levels.
Precipitation for the year totaled 37.65″, just a bit shy of our 40.5″ average. Aside from the incessant rains of April and May, however, much of our usual wet season was not actually wet, with long dry periods interrupted by brief atmospheric rivers. There was no significant rain from Jan. 8 through Feb. 26, from September through Oct. 20, from November 9-26, and for the first three weeks of December. It seems to be a trend in recent years that our rain events are fewer but wetter, a trend that makes for pleasant winter hiking but is not great for infiltration and groundwater recharge.
January started with at atmospheric river and the year’s wettest day (2.04″) on the 3rd, before shifting into an anomalously dry pattern. Clear days near month’s end brought lows around 20 and highs around 50.
February – usually dreary – featured plenty of sunshine, with three days reaching 60+ in the week before Valentine’s Day, starting from frosty mornings. A cold snap from the 23rd-25th brought two mornings below 20 degrees, followed by an overdue return to winter rains on the 27th.
It seems like March is often a cold month, but this year included some warm days with 68 degrees on the 22nd and 26th. This warm early spring would spell trouble for early-opening buds and blossoms.
April averaged colder than March, 4.2 degrees below normal, with more than double the usual precipitation at 6.24″ and rain on 2/3rds of the days. After a single 75-degree day on the 7th, temperatures dropped steadily to a blossom-biting 25.6ºF on the 15th, nipping the primary buds of grapes, figs, and persimmons and reducing pollination of pears and apples. The incessant rains kept pollinators grounded on most days as well. On the other hand, the abundant rainfall finally put an end to our long-running drought and blunted what could otherwise have been a severe fire season.
May continued the cool and wet for the first half of the month, with many days topping out around 60 and a few around 50. Spring finally arrived on the 21st, with a series of beautiful days in the 70s. Rainfall was again nearly twice normal, and farmers on wetter sites could not till their fields until the last week of the month – six weeks later than most years.
The rain would continue in June with measurable precip on 11 of the month’s first 17 days (once again totaling twice normal for the month) and a March-like high of 58 degrees on the 12th. Newly-planted tomatoes and peppers were not happy, and many warm-season crops would run 2-4 weeks behind their usual schedule for the rest of the summer. Summer arrived precisely on the Solstice (21st) with a series of 80 degree days and no more rain. A two-day heat wave brought 97.5ºF on the 26th, bringing faint echoes of the previous year’s unprecedented late-June heat dome.
The first three weeks of July featured beautiful summer days in the 70s and 80s, with lush green vegetation continuing longer and fire season starting later thanks to the abundant June rains. Heat arrived on the 24th, a long series of 90+ degree days topping out at 101.2ºF – the warmest of the year – on the 29th.
August was warm – uncomfortably so at times – with nine days above 90 degrees and a departure of 2.6º above normal making it our largest positive anomaly of the year. That said, most nights dropped into the 50s, allowing homes to cool, and evening sea breezes reliably brought relief after the warmest hours.
September featured no rain whatsoever until the 28th, with a monthly total of 0.28″ registering just 19% of normal. There were plenty of beautiful late-summer days in the 70s and 80s, but smoke finally reached our area as east winds fanned the Cedar Creek Fire into a major conflagration that threatened the town of Oakridge.
October also featured no rain until the 21st, by which point the delayed arrival of the rainy season had tipped us back toward drought status. Seed and bean farmers reveled in the continuing sunshine, bringing in late-planted crops with no trouble. A high of 89 degrees on the 15th had us wondering what month it was exactly, but we were reminded soon enough as rain and November-like temperatures arrived on the 21st.
November managed to reach average rainfall despite a dry and cold spell from the 8th to the 21st. The 6th provided a surprise as cold heavy rain turned to snow, briefly accumulating around an inch before slowly melting. An infusion of dry air on northeast winds allowed temperatures to drop off steeply at night in the following days, avoiding the persistent fog that often accompanies high pressure at this time of year. The many nights in the upper teens and low 20s made for difficult germinating conditions for late-planted cover crops and caused some damage to radicchio heads. The monthly average temperature of 38.8 degrees was 6.5º below normal and also our coldest month of the year – perhaps the first time I have seen that award go to November. It felt much more like winter than fall, although the frosty mornings did warm to 50 degrees in the afternoons.
December failed to provide much precip for the first three weeks, and ended up about 25% shy of average despite the deluge at the end. The 13th-17th brought a return to crisp 20-degree nights and sunny days, before the winter Solstice ushered in a period of dynamic weather that would bring freezing rain at 24 degrees, a sudden warm-up to a near-record 58.5 on Christmas, and then a major windstorm on the 27th. The last few days were seasonally rainy, a trend that continued into the early days of 2023 as the storm track moved south into California.
What will 2023 bring us? We shall see…