Friday, December 20, 2013

Winter: The State of Play

It's Solstice Eve! In many ways we've passed the worst of this purgatory called "winter" through which we must languish between the mellow fruitfulness of autumn and the giddy intoxication of spring.

But what, exactly, are the grounds for hope? Well, here in the City of Roses, where Infinite Art Tournament is published, tomorrow will be a mere 1.5 seconds shorter than today, sunrise to sunset.  The 22nd will add close to three seconds of daylight over what we experience on the 21st, and from there there will be months of accelerating daylight, with the increase progressing at roughly five seconds/day/day.

You heard me.  Five seconds/day/day.  It's a measure of acceleration.

Of course, the situation at the end of the work day has already palpably improved.  The earliest sunset of the season is already ten days behind us, and we've already gained back three minutes on that front.  On the other hand, it is still some time before we will leap from bed kissed by the gentle rays of the rising sun.  The latest sunrise of winter won't come until January 2, an objectionable deferment of winteryness into the new year.

The grimness of the season is however not merely a function of day length.  No, there is also the tedium of eternal soot-grey skies.  December in Portland is the worst month for overcast (69.9% of the time) but I must warn you that January isn't much better (67.9%).   Lamentably, this figure doesn't fall below 50% until May.  On the other hand, the meager 3772 minutes of sunshine that a Portlander can expect in December will increase to 4800 in January (for a point of comparison, a civilized month like July offers 19596).

If the damp gets to you most, I'm happy to tell you that we are well past the statistically wettest day of the year, November 30th.  Rain tails off considerably over the course of December, although it then plateaus through January and February before resuming its tapering.

Meanwhile, in the temperature department, we are as statistically cold as we're going to get.  PDX average highs bottom out at a mild 45 Fahrenheit on December 14 and stay there until January 5; the lows hit a bottom of 35 F on December 10 and stay there until January 8. 

However!  While the average highs and lows head upward in January and February, there is always the chance of some serious late-winter air dropping down out of the arctic and making things interesting.  This is why the chance of significant snow is highest -- although not particularly high -- through the month of January.  The potential for really extreme lows, which around here means temperatures below 20 F, is greatest in the last half of January and the first week of February, after which it vanishes.

If you do not live in Portland, your local conditions will of course vary.  If you do not live in the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, this entire discussion has been purely academic.  If you live in Australia, here's wishing you a sun-soaked Christmas holiday!

1 comment:

gl. said...

this post makes me think you guys should go to hawaii every winter.

also, happy to read your "state of the solstice" address. can't wait until jan02!