The PROMISE of Portland RAINS

I would like to take the opportunity to dispel a false perception about the Pacific NW. More specifically, the incorrect notion that Portland is a city that experiences an overabundance of annual rainfall.

The truth of the matter is that Portland receives only slightly above average rainfall. According to, Portland averages 37in. per year, where the national average is around 35in. per year. In contrast, extreme rainfall is found in the American southeast. Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, for example, each record more than 50in. per year. Meanwhile, the southwest desert states of Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico are firmly fixed at the opposite end of the spectrum, averaging below 8in. per year.

If Portland receives only average rainfall, why then is it known for itís rainy weather? One answer is found in the number of rain-days throughout the year. While tropical storms pummel the SE states in concentrated bursts during hurricane seasons, Pacific Northwest weather systems predominantly spread their payload from late October to early March. Thus, Portland receives less rain than the SE, but its more constant or continually falling throughout the year. Naturally, this leads people to believe that itís ìalwaysî raining in Portland.

However, the more accurate assessment of weather conditions in Portland would focus on

the number of cloudy days in a given year. According to, the Portland calendar year is filled with nearly 200 days of cloudy skies. This puts Portland near the tenth spot on the list of cloudiest cities, where Cold Bay, Alaska leads the pack with more than 300 cloudy days per year. Also ahead of Portland on the list are Astoria, OR, Seattle, and Olympia, WA.

So if Portland is in fact one of the cloudiest cities in America, what effect does this have on Portlanders? Depression is the most obvious side effect of such conditions. In fact, researches in the early eighties discovered that sunlight is an effective treatment for depression. According to an article posted on, this is due to the fact that sunlight engenders hormones and neurotransmitters that ìeffect our mood and well-being.î Serotonin, one of these hormones, is considered a major component of depression because it is designed to regulate mood, emotion, sleep and appetite. Recent studies have shown that radiant light, at least 20 times brighter than indoor light, will increase serotonin levels, while dark, cloudy days can have the opposite effect.

For better or worse, clouds and rain have been natural symbols of Portland for decades. The rains bestow the fair city with its nick-namesake roses and lush, expansive forests. You can always spot an out-of-towner in a Portland downpour clutching a recently purchased umbrella. True Portlanders donít even own umbrellas; they are known to simply ìtough it out.î We are one with the rain; our blood IS rain and our civic identity is intrinsically linked to the rain.

Clouds, on the other hand are less desirable, but unfortunately more abundant. This might even lead Portlanders to perpetuate the aforementioned rain fallacy. But as common sense predicts, where thereís rain there are clouds, and likely vice versa. For the most part, we Portlanders have never given in to the psychological torment of cloud-filled skies. And those who do are likely to join Portlandís extensive pedigree of writers and artisans. Many of us have learned to cope with life in the clouds; surviving by way of coffee-filled days and brewpub nights. And those of us who are outdoor enthusiasts tend to maximize our sparse days of sunshine with a wealth of diverse sports to pursue. Most importantly, the cloudy weather always promises that winter storms will eventually yield the abundant, flowing rivers and fresh-water lakes required for summer activities. And winter in Oregon would be worthless without the clouds that blanket our mountain peaks and snow parks.

So it seems to be a love-scorn relationship, one that you learn to accept because itís beyond human control. Another positive side effect of Portlandís weather is that it keeps sun-greedy Californians away. Donít get us wrong California, we love it when you show up in Portland, but its far better when you leave. Likewise, Iím sure you get sick of tourists crowding your beaches, but I suppose it comes with the territory. And like the strange family members that all of us were unable to choose, so Oregon is the territory that I have personally grown to love. Itís a fact that Portlanders tend to be the strangest family members of all. I guess that means that itís the people who make the city, and not the weather, unless we somehow beg for the rain as well.

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