harney county climate
Introduction

Harney County lies in the south central part of Oregon touching the Nevada border. It is wholly within Climate Division 7 (South Central Oregon) established by the National Climatic Data Center. Below is a description of the climate of Division 7 followed by specific descriptions of Harney County. Climate tables for various parameters, as observed at long-term climate stations in Harney County, are included below.

Climate Division 7 — South Central Oregon

South Central Oregon, the largest of the Oregon climatic divisions, is a vast area of high desert prairie punctuated by a number of mountain ranges and isolated peaks. This region is predominantly livestock country; in addition to beef cattle, there are large numbers of sheep, dairy herds, horses, and swine. There are large amounts of land under irrigation as well, particularly in the Deschutes, Crook, Jefferson, and Klamath Counties. Among the major field crops grown are potatoes, alfalfa and other hay crops, mint, wheat, oats, barley, and onions. In the remaining counties comprising this zone (Grant, Harney, and Lake), irrigated acreage is much smaller; grazing lands and dry land farming predominate.

Figure 1 shows NOAA climate stations in Zone 7, which were in operation during the 1961-1990 period. Figure 2 shows the Harney County region from the Oregon annual precipitation map. Most of this region receives relatively low amounts of precipitation. As can be seen in Table 1, most of the stations in Zone 7 receive less than 15 inches per year. However, some of the higher mountain sites receive significantly greater precipitation. For example, Steens Mountain in Harney County, whose summit is more than 9,000 feet above sea level, receives more than 40 inches per year at its higher elevations. Other mountainous locations are also known to receive high annual amounts. Most of the stations in Zone 7 receive their highest monthly precipitation in the winter months with a secondary maximum during late spring and early summer. For other locations, the precipitation is greatest during spring and summer. Stations near the Cascades (such as Sisters, Bend, Chiloquin, Klamath Falls, and Madras) tend to have annual distributions very similar to those in western Oregon: winter maximum are followed by a steady decrease, with lowest monthly averages in midsummer. Farther east, however, spring-summer peaks are much more pronounced. At Hart Mountain, for example, the four wettest months are March through June. The months of July through September are generally the driest of the year throughout the region. These months are characterized by isolated local thunderstorms. Some months are very wet and others almost completely dry.

Tables 2a and 2b lists the average number of days with precipitation amounts exceeding certain thresholds.

Table 3 lists normal monthly temperatures for Zone 7 measurement stations. Summers are generally quite warm, although the relatively high elevations tend to moderate the temperatures somewhat. Pelton Dam and Dayville, with mean maximum temperatures in the 90's during the warmest summer months, are the hottest stations in this region. The coldest sites listed are Brothers, Hart Mountain, Sprague River, and Ochoco Ranger Station. It is certain that some of the higher elevations are colder than the areas listed here, however.

Table 4 lists average monthly and annual snowfall total for the various stations.

Tables 5 and 6 list median frost dates and mean growing seasons, respectively, for four different temperature thresholds.

Table 7 and 8 list average monthly and annual heating and growing degree days, respectively.

County Description

Established: Feb. 25, 1889
Population: 7,600
Area: 10,228 sq. mi.
Economy: Forest products, manufacturing,
County Seat: Burns

In 1826, Peter Skene Ogden became the first white man to explore this area when he led a fur brigade for the Hudson's Bay Company. In 1889, Harney, the largest county in Oregon, was carved out of Grant County and named for Harney Lake. The lake, in turn, was named for Maj. Gen. William S. Harney, commander of the Department of Oregon, U.S. Army, from 1858-1859. Harney was instrumental in opening areas of eastern Oregon for settlement. A fierce political battle, with armed night riders who spirited county records from Harney to Burns, ended with Burns as the county seat in 1890. The courthouse was constructed five years later. Burns' first newspaper was established in 1884 and its first church in 1887. Harney County shares the largest Ponderosa pine forest in the nation with Grant County and has more than 100,000 head of beef cattle on its vast ranges. Its abundance of game, numerous campsites and excellent fishing have stimulated fast-growing recreational activities.

 

(County information obtained from Oregon Blue Book)

 

Climate Tables (Harney County, Oregon)


Table 1. Precipitation, Monthly and Annual Averages (1971-2000) (back to top)
Name
Number
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Annual
Burns WSO AP
1175
1.18
1.11
1.24
0.85
1.05
0.66
0.40
0.45
0.50
0.72
1.11
1.30
10.57
Squaw Butte Experiment
8029
1.41
1.02
1.30
1.03
1.31
0.80
0.45
0.58
0.63
0.79
1.25
1.23
11.8
Whitehorse Ranch
9290
0.63
0.70
0.87
0.92
0.93
0.55
0.21
0.68
0.54
0.57
0.67
0.71
7.98

Table 2a. Average number of Days with Selected Precipitation Amounts, Burns WSO AP, 1971-2000 (back to top)
Threshold
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Annual
.01"or more
10.3
10.2
11.6
8.8
9.4
6.2
2.8
3.1
3.8
5.9
11.5
10.1
96.6
.10"or more
4.3
4.1
4.3
3.2
3.8
2.4
1.1
1.3
1.5
2.7
4.2
4.4
38.4
.50"or more
0.2
0.2
0.3
0.2
0.3
0.3
0.3
0.1
0.2
0.3
0.1
0.2
2.8
1.00"or more
0
0
0
0
0
0.1
0
0
0
0
0
0
0.1
Table 2b. Average number of Days with Selected Precipitation Amounts, Squaw Butte Experiment, 1971-2000 (back to top)
Threshold
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Annual
.01"or more
9.8
8.5
10.0
7.9
8.3
5.6
3.2
4.0
4.2
5.1
9.3
8.0
81.6
.10"or more
4.9
3.9
4.2
3.5
4.4
2.7
1.4
1.6
1.8
2.4
4.2
3.9
37.8
.50"or more
0.4
0.1
0.4
0.3
0.6
0.2
0.1
0.2
0.3
0.2
0.3
0.5
3.7
1.00"or more
0.1
0
0
0
0.1
0
0
0
0
0.1
0
0
0.3

Table 3. Monthly and Annual Average Temperatures (deg F), Burns WSO AP (1862), 1971-2000 (back to top)
Parameter
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Annual
Mean max
34.7
40.5
49.0
57.4
66.1
75.1
85.4
84.5
75.0
62.4
44.8
35.1
59.2
Mean min
14.0
19.4
24.9
28.6
35.6
41.1
46.4
43.9
35.0
26.4
20.6
14.6
29.2
Mean temp
24.4
30.0
37.0
43.0
50.9
58.1
65.9
64.2
55.0
44.4
32.7
24.9
44.2
Extreme max
57
64
71
84
94
98
100
102
97
89
70
57
99
Extreme min
-27
-28
-14
10
15
21
25
22
17
-3
-13
-28
-28
Mean number of days
Max 90 or more
0
0
0
0
0.2
1.8
9.5
8.3
1.3
0
0
0
19.8
Min 32 or less
30.0
26.2
27.1
19.8
8.6
2.7
0.6
1.0
7.8
23.3
27.0
30.1
205.9
Max 32 or less
10.1
5.4
0.5
0
0
0
0
0
0
0.1
3.0
10.8
31.2
Min 0 or less
3.9
1.9
0.1
0
0
0
0
0
0
0.1
0.9
3.7
10.6

Table 4. Snowfall, Monthly and Annual Averages (1971-2000) (back to top)
Name
Number
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Annual
Burns WSO AP
1175
7.0
6.7
3.8
0.7
0.2
0
0
0
0
0.7
6.0
10.2
39.5
Squaw Butte Experiment
8029
12.6
8.3
4.7
1.6
0.5
0.1
0
0
0
0.8
5.3
12.1
42.0
Whitehorse Ranch
9290
2.0
2.6
2.5
1.0
0.1
0
0
0
0.2
0.1
1.4
2.0
15.5

Table 5. Median Spring and Fall Frost Dates, Burns WSO AP, 1971-2000 (back to top)
Percentile
Last Date in Spring of Low Temperatures (deg F)
First Date in Fall of Low Temperatures (deg F)
24
28
32
36
24
28
32
36
10
19-Apr
13-May
2-Jun
14-Jun
16-Sep
18-Aug
5-Jul
3-Jul
20
28-Apr
19-May
8-Jun
16-Jun
18-Sep
26-Aug
6-Jul
3-Jul
50
9-May
1-Jun
19-Jun
22-Jun
23-Sep
11-Sep
6-Aug
13-Jul
80
22-May
13-Jun
24-Jun
28-Jun
4-Oct
21-Sep
14-Sep
23-Aug
90
1-Jun
19-Jun
27-Jun
30-Jun
11-Oct
23-Sep
16-Sep
31-Aug

Table 6. Average Growing Season, Burns WSO AP, 1971-2000 (back to top)
Percentile
Length of Time (Days) Between Occurrence of Temperatures ( deg F)
24
28
32
36
10
150
97
33
19
20
143
99
28
17
50
137
102
48
21
80
135
100
82
56
90
132
96
81
62

Table 7. Monthly and Annual Average Heating Degree Days (base 65°F), 1971-2000 (back to top)
Name
Number
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Annual
Burns WSO AP
1175
1243
1017
854
647
436
231
74
84
289
636
961
1267
7810
Squaw Butte Experiment
8029
1186
945
869
651
457
225
77
74
224
513
879
1144
7120
Whitehorse Ranch
9290
1098
855
774
587
368
167
39
50
197
486
811
1073
6512

Table 8. Monthly and Annual Average Growing Degree Days (base 50°F), 1971-2000 (back to top)
Name
Number
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Annual
Burns WSO AP
1175
0
0
1
23
116
256
484
450
205
31
0
0
1566
Squaw Butte Experiment
8029
0
0
2
33
116
279
512
512
291
92
3
0
1841
Whitehorse Ranch
9290
0
1
5
44
159
330
573
544
293
85
5
1
2040