There was little if any doubt, in the week preceding the holiday, that Baker City residents would have a white Christmas.
But it might have been the whitest on record.
Or, rather, the deepest.
According to the National Weather Service, based on weather records dating to 1889 the deepest snow measured on Christmas Day in Baker City was 7 inches, in 1948.
The Weather Service does not note whether that measurement was taken in town or at the airport, the latter being the current site for official weather measurements. Snow depth, though, has not been measured at the airport for more than a decade, since the Weather Service replaced human weather observers there with automated devices.
But the current snow depth in town is considerably more than 7 inches, as anyone can attest who has been outside recently.
Besides the deep snow — which is well above average not only for the holiday but for any point in the winter — this was also one of the chilliest Christmas days around here.
The temperature at the airport plunged to 6 below zero in the final hour of Christmas. That’s the coldest temperature on record for the holiday at the airport, where statistics date to 1943. The previous record was 3 below zero, set on Christmas Day 1948.
The coldest Christmas in Baker according to the Weather Service statistics was 1924, when the temperature dipped to 15 below zero. That probably was recorded in the city, where temperatures on clear winter nights typically are several degrees warmer than at the airport. That’s because the airport is near the lowest part of Baker Valley, and cold air, being more dense than warmer air, sinks.
At a larger geographic scale that also explains why temperature inversions frequently happen here in winter. It’s not uncommon for the temperature to be in the single digits at the airport, elevation 3,379 feet, while skiers at Anthony Lakes, more than 4,000 feet higher, bask in the 30s.
With below-normal temperatures forecast for the rest of the month, this December will likely be one of the coldest on record (see below). The temperature hasn’t been above freezing at the airport since Dec. 11.
A DECEMBER TO REMEMBER
This December is on pace to be one of the coldest on record at the Baker City Airport.
• 35.6 degrees
2016 (Dec. 1-25)
• 25.5 degrees
• 25.9 (1990)
• 18.1 degrees
2016 (Dec. 1-25)
• 6.1 degrees
• 3.6 (1948)